Submitted January 30, 2020 by Dr. Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., and Dr. Sibyl Swift, Ph.D. to The Boston Globe
Dietary Supplements are Safe and Regulated by the Government
For the past 25 years, dietary supplements have been safely and properly regulated by the U.S. government under laws supported by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), President Bill Clinton and other consumer protection scions, despite what columnist Yvonne Abraham claims in a recent column: “Dietary supplements, largely unregulated, deserve the state’s skepticism.”
Americans trust the quality and safety of supplements, as evidenced by the simple fact that more than three of every four Americans use them daily often at the direction of their doctor or medical professional. The vast majority of these products are multivitamins or other ingredients like calcium, Vitamin D, fish oil or workout supplements, including those sold by Tom Brady (yes, that Tom Brady). These safe and legal products serve an important purpose as supplements — not substitutes – for a balanced approach to health and fitness that includes a proper diet and exercise.
Consumers should always beware of products that sound too good to be true – especially in the areas of fitness, weight loss, and sexual performance – and they should always consult a doctor before taking a supplement. But prohibiting the sale of healthy, safe and legal products to minors or pushing them behind the counter to be sold like tobacco won’t promote public health and may actually undermine it.
If minors can’t purchase legal products from licensed retailers in Massachusetts, they will simply go across the border or even worse, online. That’s the real danger, because the internet is the storefront of choice for fly-by-night outfits selling fake products or illegal drugs masquerading as supplements.
As the former Director of the Division and Associate Director for Research and Strategy at the Office of Dietary Supplement Programs, we know first-hand that the industry is very well regulated and has the proper enforcement authority to prevent and punish bad actors. We oversaw an agency that put criminals in jail and kept consumers safe.
The FDA has strict requirements for how new dietary ingredients are introduced and allowed to be sold to the public and the FTC has authority of over false advertising claims. Legitimate supplement manufacturers know this and understand that consumers expect to know that what is in the products they are buying is listed on the label.
There are certainly always things that we can do to improve consumer safety, which is why we support proposals that would require new products entering the market like CBD to have safe and established levels for daily consumption. But as we look for ways to protect consumers, it is important that we keep the facts straight and not resort to policies that would undermine the very goals they seek to promote.