In 2009 a group was formed in Canada called The Clean Sport Initiative™. Their goal is to raise awareness of accidental doping in sports and take action against it. Most importantly, they provide possible solutions to protect athletes. Seems a big to-do about nothing? Well, tell that to athletes like Serge Despres. Despres, an Olympic athlete was suspended from competitive sports for 2 years because of tainted supplements he purchased off the shelf at a well-known supplement chain.
If you aren’t an athlete you’re probably wondering why I’m concerned with this issue? It’s a concern for everyone because it points out how there have been no regulations for supplementation by the government. The head coach of my swim team in Virginia knew this and restricted all swimmers from taking any supplements. He understood the problem for a swimmer as they advanced the ranks in the swimming world. Fortunately athletes now have a regulatory organization known as NSF International who monitors products for athletes and publishes a list of safe products.
Still not an athlete? Well, if you consume supplements at all you should be concerned. There’s a history to supplements that the consumer should understand. Prior to August 24, 2007, the supplement industry was “regulated” but also protected under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. With that regulation the burden of proof sat with the FDA. Manufacturers weren’t—and still aren’t—required to demonstrate a product’s safety and efficacy before it hits the market, which are strict requirements for conventional drugs. That’s the pharmaceutical grade buzzword used today.
Now, supplement makers must test all their products’ ingredients for purity, and have records of that testing available for FDA inspection for at least one year. Labels must indicate precise quantities and supplement makers must keep detailed records of the manufacturing process to prevent errors. The FDA also now requires that manufacturers report any adverse effects of their pills and liquids. The process and testing not to mention the equipment is expensive. The new rules will be phased in over the next three years. This may be a move in the right direction but FDA does not demand proof of efficacy which is a concern for physicians.
So, now that the government is stepping in we should all feel safe, right? I wouldn’t let your guard down. Regulations are still just fine but these companies must be self governing and responsible. Now, this new FDA decree may stop the problems of contaminated products. I had a client, Amy who swore off supplements after becoming very sick from a product contaminated with E coli. Yuck! That isn’t a story we want to see in detail, but it is true.
What is a regular person supposed to do? Even with this FDA protection in place, I just spent the last hour searching the internet for products that are tested for purity and potency, and I mean tested regularly. Each batch of raw product and each lot of finished supplement. I found one online. It would not allow me to purchase it or see pricing. It is sold only to health care professionals who make it available in their office. The glitch is, not many doctors or chiropractors want to get into the supplement business.
You might not be aware that I have been taking supplements for more than 30 years. The supplements I use are manufactured by Shaklee Corporation. Check out the link on my site. I’m not here to sell you these products, but encourage you to arm yourself against what is on the market. Look at the information regarding Shaklee’s manufacturing and testing. It’s important because that is what makes them safe. Then take the information you learn there and try to apply it to the products you are presently using. Make sure you are a safe consumer.
Pharmaceutical grade means that the manufacturer has standards of purity just as pharmaceutical companies standards for the medicine your doctor prescribes. The difference is the companies choose to do this. It isn’t dictated by the government. Testing starts with the raw materials. If the raw material of Amy’s supplement had been tested all her illness may have been avoided. There are other companies who are moving in this direction. See if yours is among those forward thinkers.
Be careful. If you find a supplement with 3000 capsules in a bottle for $5 it’s a safe bet the manufacturer didn’t test a thing. The worse could be illness, the least issue you could face is to have no benefit from taking it because there isn’t anything in your pills!
As Always — Be Well!