Devon Powell makes a point that the NY Attorney General may be “conducting what could be construed as more of a smear campaign against the supplement industry than an exercise in consumer protection.” I’m of the opinion that there was little scientific basis for the accusations. DNA testing was used to determine if the appropriate plant parts were in the product as advertised. It’s unlikely that DNA from plants extracted or made into teas as dietary supplements would survive the processes involved. This scientifically flawed approach should not have been tolerated for such highly publicized findings. It’s like losing your keys in an alley and looking for them under a streetlight because the illumination is better.
On the other hand, the media firestorm shed light on the fact that many members of the dietary supplement industry are not complying with FDA regulations for manufacturing their products. The industry isn’t entirely “bad” by any means. We hear news about adulterated products more frequently.
Many dietary supplement industry manufacturers have not fully embraced the Good Manufacturing Practices required by the FDA. The companies that come to InstantGMP have a strong desire to comply but have not yet figured out how to navigate the complexity of meeting GMPs. However, they care about quality and have taken steps to ensure their customers get safe and effective products.
Powell has become a proponent for passing a law requiring a third-party certification for supplement manufacturers. Having a qualified third-party certification program as a requirement by law prior to being able to market a supplemental product could be beneficial. It could increase consumer confidence by eliminating “bad actors” and offer positive PR for the industry.
In the absence of a law, Powell appears to be a proponent of pushing the responsibility for controlling quality off the desks of FDA inspectors and into the hands of third-party certifiers. This then begs the question, “Who’s guarding the guards?” There are no standards for certification outside of the individual companies that offer certification. It is currently possible to pay $500 through the Internet and buy a certification. Certification of dietary supplement producers sounds good in principle but not so much in practice. While a new law requiring certification would be a good idea, FDA auditors who are so overworked that can’t even get to inspect all of the manufacturing sites would be hard-pressed to check on the certifications.
What remains to be done to ensure dietary supplement products meet quality standards and comply with FDA regulations is the consumers’ opinion. If they demand transparency and compliance before they purchase their supplements, the industry will listen and respond. We see this in action already. Many dietary supplement producers promote their products as made under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and proudly display GMP certifications. This has been a response to their customers asking questions about how these products are manufactured. It turns out that GMP is good for business. What’s left is to ensure that the NY Attorney General does the proper research before pursuing action against supplement manufacturers and purveyors.
The Journal of Nutritional Health and Food Science recently published “Beyond “Belief”: Moving Away From Dietary Supplements Reliance on Consumer’s Good Faith.” The paper was written by Devon Powell, former Chief Operating Officer of the Natural Products Association, in response to the recent actions by the New York Attorney General against GNC.