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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • June 2017
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Are dietary supplements regulated or not?

“It’s not what we don’t know that bothers me. It’s what we think we know that ain’t so.”

That is so appropriate for this article. Perhaps one of the most oft repeated myths, which so many people believe is that nutritional supplements are not regulated. How many times have you heard that stated with complete certainty? How many times have you read it in popular press? We have heard and read it so many times that many people assume it must be true.

Let me dispel that myth right from the start: dietary supplements are fully regulated by both the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Anyone who says that supplements and supplement manufacturers are not regulated is either very misinformed or is for some reason denying or hiding the truth. In either case, it is hard for me to have confidence in any source that gets this fundamental fact so wrong.

Nutritional supplements are fully regulated by law because of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which was passed in 1994. I know this law very well because I was deeply involved in mobilizing efforts in Wisconsin to pass it. This law and subsequent regulation put the control directly under the FDA and the FTC. This law was passed over 20 years ago, and yet how often do we still hear that supplements are unregulated?

This is an important issue. If supplements are unregulated, then how do you know which companies to trust? To suggest that they are not regulated creates uncertainty in the minds of consumers that is based on false information. Consumers need to know that there is a law in place to assure safety and honesty in the marketplace. There are significant regulations that companies must follow in order to not be in violation of the standards.

Some of the standards to which companies are held include the following:

  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as defined by the FDA. These are extensive and cover manufacturing and record keeping, as well as adverse event reporting.
  • Ingredients must be tested before use in manufacturing.
  • Finished goods must be tested after manufacturing.
  • Finished products must include all ingredients on the label.
  • Finished goods must be accurately labeled for potency and sources of the nutrients.
  • Claims for medical benefit are not allowed except as approved by the FDA and the FTC.
  • Claims must be truthful and not misleading.

There are thousands of companies in the nutritional products business. Most of these companies are reputable companies that have been in business for many years. These companies have a vested interest in producing high quality products that are both safe and effective. These companies have invested heavily in the process of complying with new regulation. You as the consumer have every right to expect that your supplements are manufactured by good companies using GMP.

Having said all of that, there is a dark side to the nutritional supplement industry. There are companies trying to cash in on the growing popularity of supplements that are not committed to following the law. There are products that are subpar quality. There are products that are adulterated. There are products with inferior ingredients. These companies are committing fraud upon its customers. There are not supplement manufacturers, they are scammers. These are companies that fly under the radar. They make excessive claims and sell inferior products. It is these companies you must avoid.

How do you tell them apart?

Do your homework. Learn which companies you can trust. Does the company have a street address that you can visit? Do they have a phone number you can call? If they are just an internet company, then beware.

While there are problem companies in the marketplace, those problems are small compared to the vast majority of companies that comply with the regulation and play fair with consumers and regulators. So forget the idea that supplements are not regulated and instead focus on finding companies and sources you can trust. Any company that has been around for decades is likely to be a company you can trust. We have two such companies in our area: Enzymatic Therapy and Nature’s Way are perfect examples of companies that meet and even exceed the regulations.

Even amongst good companies there are many levels of quality. There are cheap and legal ingredients and there are the highest quality ingredients. Some companies will adopt the lowest legal standard and others will choose the highest quality and most effective forms of nutrients and herbs. So part of your search should focus on identifying the companies whose products are most likely to give you the highest quality.

So the next time you read or hear that supplement manufacturers are not regulated, you can take assurance that you know the truth. You can then use your energy to identify good companies and seek out the best products for your nutritional program. 

Steve Lankford

Steve studied and practiced natural health and healing for three years way back in the early 1970s. In 1976, he and his wife Debbie opened Family Nutrition Center, a health food store in Green Bay. Family Nutrition Center is located at 850-A Lombardi Ave. in Green Bay. Family Nutrition Center can help you discover a nutritional program that works. For more information, visit or call 920-432-6886.

Steve is also the host of, dedicated to nutrition and your good health. The mission of the podcast is to explore the science of good nutrition and good health, and to share that with listeners and customers.

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