40% Of Tested Multivitamins Don’t Contain What Their Labels Say They Contain

Vitamin pillsConsumerLab.com is an independent lab that tests dietary supplements for qualities such as strength, purity, identity, and disintegration. You have to pay for their reports. I think it’s about $36 a year for a subscription. But they tease results on their site and even just those reveal a very sloppy, and sometimes dangerous dietary supplement business.

Here’s a summary of their review of multivitamins updated May 2014. They tested 75 products, from the high-end TwinLab, Life Extension, and Garden of Life, to the more common Centrum and One-A-Day, to private labels including GNC, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Vitamin Shoppe, Walgreens, and even some pet vitamins.

Product Review: Multivitamin and Multimineral Supplements Review

ConsumerLab.com found defects in nearly 40% of multivitamins it selected for testing. Here are some of the discoveries:

  • One popular general multivitamin contained nearly 2.5 times its claimed amount of vitamin A in the retinol form. Too much of this type of vitamin A can be harmful.
  • 12 multivitamins provided less vitamin A, vitamin C, or folate, or than claimed, some with less than 30% of the listed amounts. These include a prenatal vitamin and products for men, adults (general), seniors, and even pets.
  • Tablets of a women’s multi and a general adult multi failed to break apart within the required time — indicating they may not fully release all of their ingredients for absorption.
  • One pet multivitamin was contaminated with lead.
  • A range of multivitamins contained more than the upper tolerable limits of niacin, vitamin A, magnesium, and/or zinc.

The FDA doesn’t do pre-market testing, but it does require the manufacturer to do it:

Dietary Supplement Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) and Interim Final Rule (IFR) Facts, FDA, 22 June 2007, Last Updated 19 September 2014

The rule establishes CGMPs for industry-wide use that are necessary to require that dietary supplements are manufactured consistently as to identity, purity, strength, and composition.

For Consumers: Final Rule Promotes Safe Use of Dietary Supplements, FDA, 22 June 2007, Last updated 14 October 2014

The final rule aims to ensure that dietary supplements do NOT have:

  • wrong ingredients
  • too much or too little of a dietary ingredient
  • improper packaging
  • improper labeling
  • contamination problems due to natural toxins, bacteria, pesticides, glass, lead, or other substances

I don’t understand how manufacturers get away with it.

Supplements Lie, And The FDA’s Hands Are Tied
– An old post of mine, same issue: The Truth About Supplements, May 2007. It looks like sales of dietary supplements have grown from $21 billion in 2006 to $61 billion in 2014.

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