Several years ago, I was one of three lawyers in the country appointed
by a federal judge in Birmingham to serve on the plaintiffs’ executive
committee for a class action. The class consisted of victims killed or
injured by a nutritional supplement. It was misformulated.
It contained too much of one nutritionally necessary chemical that in excess
amounts is extremely toxic. This kind of problem occurs with some frequency,
so consumers like you and me cannot safely assume that the nice supplement
bottle and label equate to safety.
Another problem that occurs with great frequency is intentional mislabeling
of supplement labels. The misrepresentations take two forms. First, the
manufacturers make claims about what the product will accomplish. Weight
reduction, restoration of hair, higher energy levels are things that come
to mind immediately. Maybe the ingredients will do that, but very, very
often they won’t. Falsifying claims about a product’s effect
is common. Second, the manufacturers list ingredients on the product labels,
but many times the products don’t really contain those things or
the amounts they are supposed to have.
The New York Attorney General’s office has just had a group of high-selling
herbal supplements tested. Eighty percent failed. So what you buy may
have no effectiveness, and it may even be dangerous. You can breathe a
little easier, though, if you’ll check the safety and effectiveness
of the supplements as much as possible before you buy. You’re probably
familiar with the letters USP.
That’s the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention. If the product has the
USP seal, the supplement meets this non-profit organization’s standards
of potency, purity, and identity of ingredients. Few get to use the seal. Another
label to look for is NSF. It means the product has been reviewed and contains what it’s supposed
to. Better yet, eat a healthy diet and exercise moderately. We know those work.