Are Our Supplements Safe?

With the media constantly attacking the supplements industry and highlighting all of the side effects and cases where they’ve become a serious danger to the health of users, people are widely under the impression that the whole industry completely ignores health and safety regulations and that taking health and fitness supplements is unsafe. That isn’t, however, the case.

In the United States, for instance, the Food and Drug Administration – more commonly referred to as FDA – not only regulates, but also exercises close monitoring on health and fitness products, among which are dietary supplements. They analyze everything from ingredients, to manufacturing processes and conditions and even to marketing practices, to make sure only completely safe products make it on to the market.

The supplement industry itself has set up its own quality control organisms, most of which are approved by the FDA, who perform independent surveillance on the products which are available on the market, so that consumers only have access to those which are not only safe, but actually effective.

It is true that supplements are not required to go through the same strict testing procedures as traditional drugs and medications. Those have to go through such procedures because they are manufactured using chemicals and synthetic substances which have likely never been tested by humans before and are thus unpredictable. That is not the case with supplements, which are generally grouped with foods, since they are made mostly of natural ingredients which the human body is generally used to and which are already known to be safe.

That does not mean supplements must not follow certain safety and quality standards, which is why the FDA has set regulations for this type of product as well.

It is the FDA’s responsibility to make sure marketing claims are able to be verified, and that they do not promise to cure diseases or reduce symptoms.

They are also responsible for reviewing and approving any new ingredients which are used to manufacture dietary supplements. This is done by giving new ingredients the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status, or as New Dietary Ingredients (NDI) classification.

The FDA can also issue an order for manufacturers to place certain warnings on their products’ labels if they find any ingredients potentially dangerous, and they can actually have products removed from the market for the same reason, especially if the manufacturer fails to comply or if extreme cases of danger are observed.

Facilities are also regularly inspected by FDA authorities to verify compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices. Those inspections include thorough verifications of everything from raw material, to testing and even packaging and labelling, so that all aspects of production are covered.