Supplement Market Update
The USFDA issued a warning on the growing problem of fraudulent supplements. In the warning the FDA stated that it had found nearly 300 fraudulent products—promoted mainly for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding—that contain hidden or deceptively labeled ingredients. Amongst the 300 fraudulent products, 80 were for marketed for bodybuilding, 40 for weight loss and 70 for sexual enhancement.
“These products are masquerading as dietary supplements—they may look like dietary supplements but they are not legal dietary supplements,” says Michael Levy, director of FDA’s Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance. “Some of these products contain hidden prescription ingredients at levels much higher than those found in an approved drug product and are dangerous.” FDA has received numerous reports of harm associated with the use of these products, including stroke, liver injury, kidney failure, heart palpitations, and death.
Separately, but also in the US a well known “male enhancement” product was recalled after counterfeits were discovered in the market place. Consumer Reports and various other news organisations covered the story. The FDA also issued a warning.
Given the scale of the problem in the US, one can only imagine how widespread these sorts of products are in the Thai market. If you buy any supplements in Thailand, make sure they are Thai FDA approved. Any product that doesn’t have a white FDA sticker with a 13 digit number that can be verified on the Thai FDA’s website is not only smuggled but is also quite likely counterfeit.
Meanwhile mass-market brand Dymatize received a setback when its BCAA capsules failed tests from a respected lab in the US. The company has been trying to shake off the stigma of the well publicized low protein test results a few years back (see, for example, the lengthy string on bodybuilding.com) so another negative finding is the last thing it needed. The levels of Isoleucine tested at 14% below the label claim and while this does not make them ineffective, it raises serious questions about the quality of the raw materials used.
Gaspari Nutrition also ran into trouble in March when its factory was found by the FDA to have serious violations of GMP standards leading to its products being deemed to be “adulterated”. In the case of Gaspari, the problems stemmed from a failure to follow-up with customers after repeated incidences of illness and adverse reactions to some of its products.
On the heels of the controversy last year when products from leading brands EAS (Myoplex) and Cytosport (Muscle Milk) tested high for levels of heavy metals, these issues further highlight the weak oversight of the whole supplements industry in the USA, especially compared to other developed countries.
Here in Thailand the laws and regulations governing supplements are far stricter but the problem is one of enforcement. The Thai FDA lacks the resources to properly police the local supplements industry, especially the grey market of websites and direct selling. It takes a large scale problem to be widely publicized in the press, such as the counterfeiting of fish sauce earlier this year, before a proper a proper investigation is carried out. The continued surge in smuggled and counterfeit supplements in Thailand is likely to play out similarly; once a large number of people are sickened or die a clampdown will occur. In the meantime we advise people to only buy from trusted overseas sources or reputable companies locally. For more information on this issue please visit our news archive.