Can you trust the label? Navigating the herbal supplement industry
In a recent article in the New York Times, researchers take a closer look at the growing concerns surrounding the labeling, and mislabeling, in the herbal supplement industry.
The article cites a study, published in BMC Medicine, in which a group of Canadian researchers used DNA bar-code testing to determine exactly what was in 44 bottles of popular herbal supplements. It wasn’t always what the label claimed.
“They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice.”
“Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.”
What is concerning is that not only do these fillers and substitutions diminish the purported health benefits of the supplements in question, they introduce potential health risks for the people who are unknowingly ingesting them. Many of the fillers could have harmful side effects and possibly deadly risks for people with allergies.
There is some debate as to the reliability of the bar-code testing used in the study, as well as suggestion that the problem is not as widespread as the published findings imply. But regardless of these debates, there’s no denying the lack of testing and regulation within the industry.
“Policing the supplement industry is a special challenge. The F.D.A. requires that companies test the products they sell to make sure that they are safe. But the system essentially operates on the honor code. Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are generally considered safe until proved otherwise.”
Similar concerns have been raised numerous times in the supplement industry. It is clear that there are companies that work toward higher standards, and there are fly-by-night operations that only care about making a quick profit. There have been discussions about how to better self-regulate the industry in order to weed out such unscrupulous companies and raise the overall safety standards, but for now, it is up to the individual supplement companies to ensure the safety of their products and inform their customers correctly about those products.
This is why Fertility Nutraceuticals established a rigorous, three-step quality control process, which includes testing at an independent laboratory. By having a third-party laboratory test all our products and verify their label claims, we ensure the purity and quality of the fertility supplements we offer to our customers.
Regardless of what’s happening elsewhere in the industry, when it comes to our labels, what you read is what you get.