by Jen Jenkins, Market Analyst
Although we see the topic wending its way in and out of the media spotlight, the Federal Drug Administration remains quietly under fire for its lack of effectively enforcing laws within the supplement industry. A rather surprising and intriguing reason for this lack of enforcement has been traced to a cross-contamination of the hierarchy of the FDA and industry officials in the supplement industry. However, this is disputed by a current chief executive of the Natural Products Association, Dr. Daniel Fabricant, who was formerly running the FDA’s division of dietary supplement programs up until last year. “I did more there in three and a half years than was done in the 16 years prior,” Dr. Fabricant has said.
At the beginning of April of this year, 14 state attorneys general insisted Congress provide the FDA with more power to regulate supplements. More attention has been paid in the last few years to supplements invading shelves that have dangerous hidden ingredients “with amphetamine-like chemicals” labeled only under obscure plant names. BMPEA is a chemical nearly identical to amphetamine that is currently causing the most concern. Canadian health authorities pulled all supplements containing the chemical from their shelves this past December. Meanwhile, the FDA has been aware of nine specific supplements containing the dangerous chemical for the past two years but chose to never make the names of those supplements public.
The biggest concern for consumers is that BMPEA is not listed as being an ingredient in many products that are still on store shelves. Many large retailers of supplements, such as the Vitamin Shoppe, are supportive of the FDA using the authority it has to regulate supplements the way it does other drugs in order to keep the industry safe. As suggested by the linked New York Times article, it remains in the best interest of the public to remain wary when incorporating new weight-loss and workout supplements into any diet: until we can fully trust that supplements are being properly regulated by the FDA, the safe bet is to stick to products that have familiar ingredients or to run it by a doctor.