Should the FDA have greater oversight of supplements?

Bob Unruh writing on WorldNetDaily sounds the alarm over proposed regulatory changes that would give the FDA oversight of functional foods.

According to the FDA proposal, “Products that NCCAM [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine] would consider to be ‘functional foods’ may be subject to FDA regulation as foods, dietary supplements, or drugs under the [proposed] Act. As with botanicals and probiotics, the classification of a ‘functional food’ under the Act is based primarily on the product’s intended use and may also involve other factors, depending on the elements of the statutory definition of a particular product category.”

Mr. Unruh gives voice to those who would be affected by any change in the regulation of supplements and “destroy the 1994 DSHEA [Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act] law that has made supplements ‘legal’.” He points to past failings of the FDA as evidence that it’s not the agency to turn to when our health is at stake.

The bottom line?
The FDA is not perfect, but neither is the supplement industry. In 1993, Senator Orrin Hatch said, “most of these [herbal remedies] have been on the market for 4,000 years, and the real issue is risk. And there is not much risk in any of these products.”

He was wrong, as is blogger Chiropractic in San Diego who writes, “How many people have you known who have gotten sick or died from taking too many vitamins? The only story I know of about this is when a bunch of arctic explorers ate polar bear livers they overdosed on the vitamins inside 100 years ago.”

Actually, evidence of the risks associated with taking supplements is everywhere.

  • “The supplements linked to the most reactions in 2005, according to the poison control centers, were ordinary vitamins, accounting for nearly half of all the reports received that year, 62,446, including 1 death.”

Need proof that mislabeling and contamination with toxins is endemic to the supplement industry and in need of fixing?

  • You can start at Just type in any supplement and see what percentage of products failed their tests.
  • More recalls and advisories (many about supplements) can be found here.

4/28/07 14:34 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.