The recent Dateline NBC investigative section on unsafe supplements and ‘dry labbing’ was “misleading” and “not representative of the responsible supplement industry”, says the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA).
The Dateline NBC exposé aired on March 18, 2012 focused on excessive selenium levels in a liquid vitamin product called Total Body Formula, and the practice of dry labbing whereby analysis is claimed to be done, but in reality the conclusions are guessed at or copied from other sources without actually doing any analysis.
“The specific situation of a laboratory’s failings covered by Dateline NBC is not representative of the responsible supplement industry,” said Steven Dentali, chief science officer for AHPA.
“The show failed to recognize the expertise found in hundreds of supplement companies that understand how to properly qualify a third-party testing laboratory. Knowledgeable manufacturers know how to choose a lab and to verify results.”
Total Body Formula
In a response to the show, AHPA said it “objects to the show’s questioning the safety of all dietary supplements by extrapolating the problems at one analytical lab to an entire responsible industry”.
The association noted that Total Body Formula was removed from the market in April 2008, and the product was not legal the moment it was put on the market: “Federal regulations require that all dietary supplement products must meet label claims, and this one did not due to the extraordinary excess of selenium,” said AHPA.
The industry’s main trade associations have all emphasized the importance of complying current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations, and AHPA noted that dietary supplement manufacturers are required to ensure that they know what is in their products and the ingredients in those products.
Challenge your labs
Ed Wyszumiala, general manager of dietary supplements programs at NSF International, told NutraIngredients-USA that the practice of dry labbing was difficult to detect but there are certain signs, including price (much cheaper than a competitor lab), unrealistic turnaround times for results, and if a lab requests the specs sheet.
“These should all raise red flags,” he said.
Wyszumiala recommended occasionally challenging a third party analytical lab by sending material that is not what it should be.
The television segment featured Frank Jaksch, CSO and co-founder of ChromaDex, as an industry expert on supplement testing.
Jaksch hailed the investigative segment as an “important first step in addressing this problem”.
Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), challenged the assertion that dry labbing is widespread.
“We don’t think the practice of dry labbing is widespread.”
“Over 150 million Americans are using dietary supplements each year and there is little evidence of widespread adulteration, contamination of ingredients, or serious adverse events,” he said.