Just four months after the U.S. Department of Justice announced a nationwide sweep of civil and criminal actions against unlawful activity in the dietary supplement industry, U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch weighed in on dietary supplements in a short video as part of National Consumer Protection Week.
While acknowledging millions of Americans use dietary supplements every day, Lynch cautioned consumers that FDA doesn’t test supplements before they are stocked on store shelves.
“That means that every day millions of Americans are ingesting substances whose safety and efficacy are not guaranteed," Lynch said. "Some of these supplements are simply a waste of money, promising results they can't deliver or advertising ingredients that they don't contain, and too often these supplements don't just abuse consumer trust, they also endanger public health."
"Some contain harmful ingredients, causing consumers to fall ill," she continued. “Others falsely claim to cure illness and disease, leading patients to use them as a substitute for the proven therapies they need."
Lynch referenced more than 100 civil and criminal cases that her department announced last year targeting marketers and manufacturers of dietary supplements. She specifically mentioned the criminal prosecution against Dallas-based USPlabs and its executives.
“The Department of Justice," Lynch declared, “is working tirelessly to ensure that the products you choose are safely manufactured, are accurately labeled and are honestly marketed because the American people deserve nothing less."
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade organization in Washington representing the dietary supplement industry, had mixed reactions to Lynch’s comments.
“We certainly appreciate the DOJ … focusing its resources on dietary supplement enforcement and share its commitment to protecting consumers from unsafe products and deceptive claims," said Rend Al-Mondhiry, associate general counsel with the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), in a brief phone interview.
She also said her organization looked “forward to working with DOJ and building a relationship like we have with FTC and FDA and looking for ways to further call out bad actors and make them accountable."
But Al-Mondhiry expressed disappointment that Lynch “failed to recognize responsible and legitimate industry and its role in keeping consumers healthy."
Lynch urged consumers "to be cautious when choosing to take dietary supplements." She advised them to visit FDA and FTC websites for information on dietary supplements and use tools developed by such organizations as the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to help make informed choices. Finally, she recommended consumers consult with their physician first if they are considering taking a dietary supplement.