Health Supplement Quality Control and the FDA’s Lack of Interest in the Topic

Last Updated on December 19, 2021 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • The FDA is strongly opposed to supplements and would restrict them if they could.
  • This article covers how the FDA functions as a drug puppet.

Introduction

The FDA wants the authority to regulate supplements, but they do not have any interest in providing quality control and certification for supplements. This illustrates that the FDA is interested in accruing power, but even with 15,000 employees, is not interested in doing much work.

Our References for This Article

If you want to see our references for this article and related Brightwork articles, visit this link.

Supplement Quality Control

The FDA does not regulate supplements but has pushed on multiple occasions to regulate supplements. However, it is clear that the reason for this is that they can restrict supplements at the directive of their pharmaceutical bosses. And since they have been disallowed from doing so, and as even with 15,000 employees the FDA is interested in doing as little work as possible, they have not even offered to set up a quality testing program. This means that the quality testing is in private hands — which is never a good idea given the history of private companies being in the position of assuring quality.

The two well-known entities are the NSF and the USP.

When doing supplement shopping it is how few supplements have either label on them.

The UPC states the following on their website.

Dietary supplement products that meet the program’s strict testing and evaluation criteria are awarded the distinctive USP Verified Mark. The Mark can be used on product labeling, packaging, and promotional materials to help distinguish USP Verified products in the marketplace and aid consumers in their decision-making process. – UPC

The NSF states the following on their website.

We conduct product testing in our own accredited laboratories to confirm that the actual contents of the supplement product match those printed on the label. We also check to make sure no unlisted ingredients or potentially harmful levels of impurities are present in products that carry our certification. – NSF

The following quote is telling.

NSF is a public health and safety organization registered under the laws of Michigan, United States. NSF has offices and laboratories in 29 countries located in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, North America, and Oceania. Manufacturers, regulators and consumers look to NSF for the development of public health standards and certification programs that help protect the world’s food, water, consumer products and environment.  – NSF

In 2021, not manufacturing in slavery conditions is still extremely controversial. It seems that while Hollywood wants to make a new Harriet Tubman movie, modern slavery is far more open for discussion. It’s easier to critique previous slavery — as one no longer makes money on it. It is not very brave to oppose things that happened in the past or that you did not benefit from. The test is whether you oppose things in the present that you do benefit from.

Movies like this are very popular in the US. Recall the success of the movie 12 Years a Slave. 

The entire cast in the movie Harriet, which retells the Harriet Tubman story purchases products made in slavery conditions. However, the cast is not interested in this topic, nor are those that cover the movie interested in discussing modern slavery. 

Defying slavery is very inspirational — as long as the slavery in question is in the past. If someone brought up the topic of the existence of modern slavery at the movie premiere it would have “harshed everyone’s mellow.” And it would also have made many of the black actors angry, and discussing non-black slavery is considered an affront to blacks that were slaves. 

The FDA could both ensure supplement quality and restrict supplements from being manufactured in slavery conditions — however, neither of these things would help people that work at the FDA pass through the revolving door into the pharmaceutical industry — therefore they have no interest in either of these topics. Again, the FDA only has 15,000 employees, how can they be expected to do much but approve drugs where all of the clinical trials are rigged by pharmaceutical companies? This is what the FDA says about their role with supplements.

Manufacturers are required to produce dietary supplements in a quality manner and ensure that they do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled according to current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) and labeling regulations.

If a serious problem associated with a dietary supplement occurs, manufacturers must report it to FDA as an adverse event. FDA can take dietary supplements off the market if they are found to be unsafe or if the claims on the products are false and misleading. – FDA

But for all practical purposes, the FDA does not deal with supplements. And if they are ever let into supplement regulation, they will clearly use that power to restrict supplements. It is very clear that the FDA opposes supplements, just as their pharmaceutical bosses do.

Lower-priced supplements will virtually never have either the UPS or the NSF labels on them. This means that to have some confidence that the supplements even have any quality testing, one must purchase the more expensive supplements.


This company has good marketing and good packaging. It appealed to me anyway. However, I could not find anything about NSF or USP on their website. They don’t appear to have any certification.

This brand called Country Life had the NSF certification at the bottom of its website. And the brand tends to be well priced. This means the brand should be considered for one’s supplements. 

The Problem With Herbs

One of the biggest problems with the contents not matching the packaging is herbs. This is explained in the following quotation.

The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies. The investigation came as a welcome surprise to health experts who have long complained about the quality and safety of dietary supplements, which are exempt from the strict regulatory oversight applied to prescription drugs. The article referred to research at the University of Guelph in Canada that found that as many as a third of herbal supplements tested did not contain the plants listed on their labels — only cheap fillers instead. Dr. Cohen at Harvard said that the attorney general’s test results were so extreme that he found them hard to accept. He said it was possible that the tests had failed to detect some plants even when they were present because the manufacturing process had destroyed their DNA. – NYT

This was mistakenly reported as applying to all supplements.

The FDA could be setup to verify the contents of supplements, but the FDA is not interested in doing this. They are interested in limiting access to all supplements. This is due to the influence over them by pharmaceutical companies. Those that support having the FDA regulate supplements always combine quality control with controlling the right to sell supplements.

The quote continues.

Among the attorney general’s findings was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens, promoted for “physical endurance and vitality,” that contained only powdered garlic and rice. At Walmart, the authorities found that its ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat — despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free. – NYT

I don’t support any of these Chinese remedies. But I do not want to lose access to important supplements like Vitamin D or Zinc because someone is selling fake toad noses or some other Chinese craziness.

This video is accurate. There are people like Dr. Oz that make false claims. Manufacturers would not be allowed to make these claims on their bottles or on their websites, but Dr. Oz seems to go off the deep end in his promotions. 

Why The FDA Does Not Allow Supplements to Make Claims About Preventing Disease

The following is from the FDA’s website.

Unlike drugs, supplements are not permitted to be marketed for the purpose of treating, diagnosing, preventing, or curing diseases. That means supplements should not make disease claims, such as “lowers high cholesterol” or “treats heart disease.” Claims like these cannot be legitimately made for dietary supplements. – FDA

This is peculiar. Because vitamin or mineral deficiencies can cause disease. This is proven. Therefore, the idea that a supplement cannot say this in its advertising is illogical. The FDA’s logic is the following.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) defined the role of supplements and outlined what dietary supplement companies can legally say about their products. The act dictates that because supplements are not drugs, supplement companies cannot imply, insinuate or state that their product diagnoses, treats, cures, or prevents disease of any kind. – Ritual

This act declared that unless something is a drug it cannot treat or prevent disease. But why would that be true? Why does improved health only come from drugs? This sounds like an act supported by pharmaceutical companies to have only drugs be allowed to make medical claims.

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency Testing

The costs of vitamin and mineral deficiency testing are prohibitive as is shown at this link. However, at those costs, it is far more cost-effective to just buy supplements. Blue Cross / Blue Shield has come out very much opposed to vitamin and mineral deficiency testing as I cover in the article The Cover Up by the Medical Establishment on Vitamin D Levels.

Blue Cross / Blue Shield prefers to wait until people have a medical condition before they approve of vitamin or mineral deficiency tests being performed.