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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 12/16/2010

FDA to raise awareness of tainted supplements

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

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The FDA on Wednesday launched an effort to better protect the public from dietary supplements that may contain potentially dangerous ingredients.

The agency sent a letter to supplement manufacturers reminding them of their duty to help keep such products out of consumers' hands. It also set up a rapid public notification system to warn consumers about tainted supplements. In particular, supplements marketed as aids to sexual performance, weight loss and bodybuilding commonly contain undeclared or deceptively labeled ingredients.

The FDA offers the following tips to people considering using dietary supplements:

In all, consumers should heed these potential warning signs of tainted products marketed as dietary supplements.
  • Products claiming to be alternatives to FDA-approved drugs or to have effects similar to prescription drugs.
  • Products claiming to be a legal alternative to anabolic steroids.
  • Products that are marketed primarily in a foreign language or those that are marketed through mass e-mails.
  • Sexual enhancement products promising rapid effects such as working in minutes to hours, or long-lasting effects such as 24 hours to 72 hours.
  • Products that provide warnings about testing positive in performance enhancement drug tests.

Generally, if you are using or considering using any product marketed as a dietary supplement, FDA suggests that you

  • check with your health care professional or a registered dietician on any nutrients you may need in addition to your regular diet
  • ask yourself: Does it sound too good to be true? (Be cautious if the claims for the product seem exaggerated or unrealistic. Watch out for extreme claims--for example, "quick and effective," "cure-all;" "can treat or cure diseases; or "totally safe." Be skeptical about anecdotal information from personal "testimonials" about incredible benefits or results obtained from using a product.)
  • ask your health care professional for help distinguishing between reliable and questionable information.

Here's information about and instructions for taking part in an on-line chat about "Tainted Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements" with FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein on Monday, December 20, from 1 to 2 p.m. ET.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | December 16, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Dietary supplements, FDA  
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