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New Justice Department Crackdown on Supplements Is Good News for Consumers

Statement by CSPI Regulatory Affairs Director Laura MacCleery

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We applaud the nationwide crackdown on dietary supplement manufacturers conducted by the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies.

The indictments unsealed yesterday show one marketer, USPlabs, allegedly lied by marketing ingredients as “natural” when they were, in fact, synthetically created in Chinese laboratories. USPlabs also allegedly failed to take steps to ascertain the safety of its pills despite knowing that they could damage the liver. Even after the company promised the FDA that it would stop distributing the products, according to the indictment, it secretly pushed sales at retailers nationwide in what the prosecutors called an “all-hands-on-deck effort” to ensure profits.

The dietary supplement industry far too often peddles lies—and sometimes harmful lies—in a bottle to unsuspecting consumers. USPlabs is far from the end of the problem. Even with the paltry number of supplement inspections it conducts, the FDA has identified nearly 650 cases of adulterated supplements containing hidden ingredients, including steroids, amphetamines and other prescription drugs, and maintains a list of more than 100 adulterated products on its Web site. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicinelinked 23,000 emergency room visits per year to dietary supplements, including for serious complications.

This fraud on the public must stop. As these indictments and civil enforcement actions show, it is high time for Congress to reform the federal law so as to ensure the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements. 

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).