This is a topic that I have recently, within the last couple of years, really looked at and actually changed my stand point on. Especially after having many conversations with other practitioners about the topic. Let me start out by saying that I know everybody loves a bargain, a good deal, a sale, or a clearance. And that is wonderful when it comes to clothing, decor, gadgets, etc. But, this is definitely something to be cautious about when it comes to purchasing vitamins and supplements over the internet. It is very easy to look up a certain vitamin you are wanting to purchase online and you see many brands as well as many various prices. It is very easy to be drawn to that lowest price because that means big savings in your pocket! Or, a practitioner has recommended a product to you that they sell in their clinic and offer to you, but you go online to find it for cheaper to save a few bucks. This is where it can become down right dangerous and you could be putting your health, or your loved ones health, in jeopardy.
A simple Google search for "FDA approval for supplements" will bring you the top result from the FDA web-site. (You can read that here). Right away at the top you will see this statement:
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed."
If you scroll down a bit more, you will come across a section titled Who Is Responsible For The Safety of Dietary Supplements. Once again you will find a similar statement as follows:
"FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed."
If there is any confusion to this, the FDA is making it very clear that they are not authorized to review supplements for safety or effectiveness before they end up on the market, which in this topic would be online. There are many people and "companies" out there are who re-selling expired products and changing the labels to make a quick buck. There are even counterfeit and fraudulent supplements out there! The fraudulent seller doesn't care, because they are in it for the money. One of the biggest online retailers where this is very common is our beloved Amazon. The place where dreams of good deals comes true. But a good deal is not all you will get if you don't know what to watch for when purchasing your supplements via their online platform. You could be putting your health in jeopardy and at risk. Because the FDA does not evaluate these products before they are put on the market, you really don't know what is exactly in your product. One of the small exceptions for Amazon, the only small exception, would be the product being sold by the manufacturer through Amazon. You would have to do your research and confirm it is actually them. But, there are also instances where people portray themselves as the manufacturer and continue to sell counterfeit supplements! So that is still risky! An article written by Dr.Osborne of Market Functional Medicine has a good explanation that he provides to his patients which I appreciated very much. In his clinic, he only uses pharmaceutical grade, independent laboratory tested products which is what many practitioners offer to their clients. Another article from Natural News that I came across explained how they themselves were victim of somebody on Amazon selling their brand of turmeric and the seller had not even sourced it from them! In 2015, CBS News ran an article about counterfeit supplements being sold in stores. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman led the investigation which found that only 21% of products from Target, GNC, Walgreen's, and Wal-Mart actually contained DNA from the plants that were advertised on the labels. That is really scary! Imagine how many people have bought products from there to legitimately help them and they have no idea that the products are counterfeit. It is very dangerous!
You're probably asking yourself, "Okay, so where can I buy legitimate supplements online safely?"
Well, go to the manufacturers web-site and see if you can order it directly from them. If you can't, you can always see if they have a list of approved re-sellers (stores) where you can purchase them. This is something that one of my favorite brands, Nordic Naturals, does for their customers. And there are many other companies that do this. Your other option would be to purchase the vitamins or supplements that you are interested in directly from a practitioner or clinic. Many practitioners have access to high quality products that they recommend and have carefully gone over to see if they fit their quality standards for their practice. Some practitioners carry products right in their clinic and others can order them for you and have it drop-shipped to your residence.
Always do your research and don't be afraid to call manufacturers and ask questions regarding quality control and reports. It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it involves your health.
CBS News. (2015, February 3). Herbal supplements filled with fake ingredients, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman finds - CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/herbal-supplements-targeted-by-new-york-attorney-general/
FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017, May 4). Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/usingdietarysupplements/ucm109760.htm
Market Functional Medicine. (n.d.). Fake Supplements on Amazon — Market Functional Medicine - Create Your Dream Practice. Retrieved from http://www.marketfunctionalmedicine.com/fake-supplements-on-amazon/
Natural News. (2013, November 26). Natural News Exclusive: Amazon.com (AMZN) sells fake, counterfeit nutritional products to unsuspecting consumers - NaturalNews.com. Retrieved from http://www.naturalnews.com/043057_Amazoncom_counterfeit_products_misrepresentation_and_fraud.html
Nordic Naturals. (2017). Authorized Resellers. Retrieved from https://www.nordicnaturals.com/en/Authorized_Resellers/Authorized_Resellers/1153