New Rules for Dietary Supplements
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New Rules for Dietary Supplements

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Friday that they are going to crack down on manufacturing practices for dietary supplements. This includes vitamins, minerals, and herbal products.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) passed in 1994 encouraged manufacturers of supplements to have “good manufacturing practices” and to test the safety and quality of their ingredients. However, FDA did not actually make the companies prove that they had done quality testing. This new rule will enforce that the companies do testing for what is actually in their product. Any company that is found to contain ingredients not on the label or ingredients not in the quantity listed on the label will face penalties.

Previously, the FDA was reactive instead of proactive. When a supplement was found to cause harm to people, then they would fine the company, limit the amount of an ingredient, or ban ingredients (remember ephedra?).

The goal of this rule is to make sure that the supplement:
1. Actually contains the amount of the ingredient it says it contains
2. Does not contain other ingredients such as bacteria, pesticides, lead, heavy metals, etc.
3. Is packaged correctly
4. Is labeled properly

Companies have between one and three years to comply with the new rule, depending on the size of the company.

This new rule is a first step at making people a little bit more confident when buying dietary supplements. If you have no idea if the product you are buying actually contains what is says it contains, or if it has other things in it that you don’t know about, it is pretty scary to gamble with that product.

Not addressed in this new rule
Supplements still do not have regulation regarding the claims that they make on their labels. Food products are very tightly regulated for what they can and can’t say when making claims on how the food is going to affect your health. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising for dietary supplements, not the FDA.

What do you think about dietary supplements? Will this new rule make you more confident when buying them?

Photo courtesy of istockphoto
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Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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