Are Your Dietary Supplements Properly Formulated and Labeled?

pills2Several 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.

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