The GAO Tested Dietary Supplements, They’re A Lot Dirtier Than You Think

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked if they would conduct an investigation into supplements, specifically:

  1. Whether sellers of herbal dietary supplements are using deceptive or questionable marketing practices.
  2. Whether selected herbal dietary supplements are contaminated with harmful substances.

Did you know that people with type 1 diabetes (their bodies make little to no insulin) can go off insulin shots altogether by taking dietary supplements? In fact, dietary supplements can replace all prescription drugs. Yes. Fish oil can replace all of your meds. Supplements “can correct any health condition,” even Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s what sellers told the GAO.

Here are some clips of GAO’s conversations with sales staff:

The FDA does not permit sellers to make claims that their products can treat, prevent, or cure specific diseases. The GAO found exactly that … sellers claiming “dietary supplements could treat, prevent, or cure conditions” such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s disease.

GAO had a lab test 40 popular herbal supplements for the presence of lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and pesticides.  They found:

GAO found trace amounts of at least one potentially hazardous contaminant in 37 of the 40 herbal dietary supplement products tested. … All 37 supplements tested positive for trace amounts of lead; of those, 32 also contained mercury, 28 cadmium, 21 arsenic, and 18 residues from at least one pesticide.”

Not to worry. The government can raise limits of allowable contaminants so that products may continue to be sold. That’s what they did when fish was found to contain too much mercury:

“The current US do-not-sell limit is 1.0 ppm – that’s 1.0 parts of mercury per million parts of fish tissue. The limit was 0.50 ppm in the 1970’s, during which time canned tuna was found to surpass that amount. Subsequently, 12 million cans of tuna were recalled – and the limit was quickly raised. Canada’s limit is still 0.50 ppm.”

Here are some heavy metals and pesticides GAO found in their samples. These are partial lists; there is more in their report:



It is more likely than not that your supplements contain pesticides and contaminants. No regulatory body is testing these things for safety (contaminants) or efficacy (does it do what the bottle says it will do).

People go out of their way to buy organic food because they say it doesn’t contain pesticides. Yet they will buy dietary supplements which are concentrated sources of pesticides and other toxins.

Some say government should not engage in public health activities. That government should not monitor foods and supplements for pesticides, heavy metals, petroleum derivatives, endocrine disruptors, pathogenic organisms, and other harmful substances. That businesses should be able to sell anything they please with no inspections, no accountability, and freedom from being sued. That man’s innate sense of good will ultimately prevail. But in the back of my mind, I hear George Carlin saying:

“[Big, wealthy businesses] don’t care about you … at all … at all … at all.”

1 thought on “The GAO Tested Dietary Supplements, They’re A Lot Dirtier Than You Think

  1. Pingback: Vox Creates Searchable Database Of Supplements Containing Hidden Drugs | Fanatic Cook

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