Consumer Reports Study On Dietary Supplements: Industry Responds to Flawed Study and Sensationalism Regarding Supplement Industry

As the September issue of Consumer Reports hits newsstands, consumers across the country will likely be drawn to the magazine’s alarmist cover story on supplements. However, the cover story appears to not only be the result of a seriously flawed study and sensationalistic reporting, but is being viewed by many in the industry as simply a re-hashing of old fallacies surrounding supplements. It is the latest example of how incorrect and/or incomplete media reporting is unnecessarily alarming consumers by spreading inaccurate and negative information about dietary supplements.

The cover story once again highlights – in large, bold print – the statistic making headlines last year that “23,000 people per year end up at the ER after taking a supplement” — a claim that industry has already responded to and put into proper perspective. In addition, the article further highlights the “lack of oversight” in the supplement industry that they say puts consumers’ health at risk – stressing that dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way as medications and that “dietary supplements are subject to far less stringent regulations than over-the-counter and prescription medication” and that “because of those lax policies, supplements that make their way into retail stores, doctors’ offices and hospitals can pose a number of potential problems.”

Perhaps most alarming to consumers – and the story grabbing the most headlines – is the magazine’s list of “15 Supplement Ingredients to Always Avoid.” In its industry response to this “list,” Steve Mister — president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) – has explained, in a piece published in Natural Products Insider, that “the list not only contains illegal ingredients, but also contains substances that aren’t sold as dietary ingredients.” He notes that “some items on the list suggest the authors have little understanding of the ingredients — such is the case with powdered caffeine”—which he further noted was not sold as pure powdered caffeine at any of the retailers listed. And, in an example that perhaps shows the biggest lack of understanding of the industry (or “intentional distortion of it in order to create a narrative that they want to create,” notes Mister) Consumer Reports warns against methylsynephrine – which FDA has already warned is not a “dietary ingredient” that may be in supplements in the first place (FDA sent warning letters in March surrounding this ingredient.)

With seven separate articles in the issue focusing on various topics surrounding dietary supplements (including “Supplements Can Make You Sick,” “What USP Verified and Other Supplement Seals Mean” and “What Supplement Labels Mean, and Don’t”) Consumer Reports is devoting a great deal of coverage to addressing the supplement industry. Yet, as Mister notes, it ”continues to bring out a very one-sided view of the industry.” So far, news coverage of this story has been limited – with perhaps even the media realizing that there is nothing new in this study that warrants reporting. In addition, industry response to this story has succeeded in further highlighting that statistics show that supplements are overwhelmingly safe – especially, as industry professionals note, when compared with pharmaceutical drugs.

To read CRN’s response to the Consumer Reports study, as reported in Natural Products Insider, click here: http://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/blogs/supplement-perspectives/2016/07/crn-describes-as-same-old-consumer-reports-articl.aspx.

In addition, for any questions regarding dietary supplements and the law, including the latest information about how supplement companies can ensure GMP compliance and follow all FDA guidelines/regulations, call us 24/7 at 516-294-0300 or email Rick Collins at rcollins@supplementcounsel.com.