Consumers often believe that vitamins are natural and that they’re safer than conventional pharmaceuticals. However, this is not always the case.
Nowadays, people are more concerned about the ingredients and risks related to drugs and vaccines than supplements, which is truly concerning. Namely, supplements, such as vitamins, herbs, hormones, antioxidants, and probiotics, are still loosely governed, and the existing regulations are poorly implemented.
It’s a popular belief among customers that the FDA tests the supplements before allowing them to reach the shelves. However, this is not entirely accurate. The FDA doesn’t inspect supplements like melatonin or magnesium the way they would review prescription drugs. The regulatory organs only order supplement manufacturers to recall the products if they prove to be harmful.
The rules are lenient because of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. There is a bipartisan part in the 1994 legislation that allows companies self-regulation. Soon after the act was passed, the market exploded with supplements that experts, regrettably, deemed mostly useless and inefficient.
It’s important to note that inefficient does not necessarily mean harmless. According to a survey, one in eight Americans experienced severe side effects upon taking supplements. Moreover, several reports showed that supplements are often mislabeled or contaminated.
A 2013 research examined 44 herbal supplements from 12 different companies and discovered that many of them had no trace of the advertised plant. What’s more, many of them contained compounds that weren’t specified on the packaging. Only two of the 12 brands tested contained exactly what they claimed to contain.
Unfortunately, the lack of testing is not the only problem. The reporting method for side effects of supplements is also haphazard. Supplement manufacturers should send regulators reports that prove the safety of “new ingredients,” i.e., those that did not exist before 1994. However, there are many holes in the process. In the end, vitamins are presumed to be safe unless proved otherwise—which we only learn when they reach supermarket shelves.
All taken into consideration, maybe the FDA should regulate this market whose worth rose to $40 billion in the past decades more strictly. In other words, the legislation should be amended so that the rules would guarantee the protection of supplement consumers.