Industry groups defend against supplements attack

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Health Nutrition Medicinal plants

The Consumer Reports attack on dietary supplements has drawn a stiff reaction from industry who have questioned the grounds on which the criticism has been based, but it could have been worse according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

Judy Blatman, senior vice president of communications, Council for Responsible Nutrition said the report had some merit.

“For those of us who remember the similar ​Consumer Reports story from five years ago, if you compare the two, you’ll see the reporter for the main portion of the story was careful to get facts right, maybe not all, but most, and there is a marked improvement overall,”​ she said.

“In fact, months ago, we were interviewed at length by ​Consumer Reports, and while we don’t like the story, particularly the sensationalistic style of the ‘12 most dangerous supplements,’ we recognize that not everyone has the same take that we do on our industry.”

But the Natural Products Association was harsher in its appraisal, noting the report falsely accuses products of being supplements when they are drugs and questions its quality control findings.

Consumer Reports listed "12 supplements you should avoid"​ namely aconite, chapparal, coltsfoot, greater celandine, kava, yohimbe, colloidal silver, bitter orange, country mallow, lobelia, germanium and comfrey.

But Consumer Reports​ also highlighted the FDA’s actions in issuing warnings against lobelia, germanium and comfrey.

The likes of fish oil, glucosamine, St John's wort and vitamin D gained the thumbs up in a section that praised 11 supplements.

Dual responsibility

Blatman, like the NPA, noted the FDA had the ability to remove dangerous products under the 1994 Dietary Supplements and Health Education Act (DSHEA).

“If FDA believes these products truly represent a health hazard, it has the ability under DSHEA to remove them from the market,”​ she said. “Secondly, when asked our advice about these products, we’ve recommended to consumers that they talk their doctor or other healthcare professional about any supplements they take, but particularly if they’re considering taking any of the ‘twelve’.”

“As an industry, we have a dual responsibility to consumers—to produce safe and beneficial products and to ensure they have access to those safe and beneficial products.”

Consumer Reports observed that: “We have identified a dozen supplement ingredients that we think consumers should avoid because of health risks, including cardiovascular, liver, and kidney problems. We found products with those ingredients readily available in stores and online.”

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