The Government Just Cracked Down On Supplements In A HUGE Way

Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
If you've ever been curious about whether your supplements are really doing you any good, you have probably been right to wonder. Thankfully, the Department of Justice has teamed up with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to launch a major legal charge against companies that have allegedly been selling fake or mislabeled supplements.

The agencies just announced that, as a result of a year-long investigation, 117 dietary supplement manufacturers and distributers will receive civil or criminal charges. In each of these cases, the government alleges that the supplements either contain ingredients not listed on the label or are marketed with unsubstantiated health claims.

One company in particular — USPLabs — got a lot of the attention, including an 11-count indictment. Along with charges related to misleading consumers, several of the company's executives are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Allegedly, USPLabs originally (and erroneously) claimed that some of its products could help people lose weight, build muscle, or beat drug addictions — all using "natural" ingredients. But, the indictment claims, these supplements actually contained a potentially-dangerous synthetic stimulant manufactured in China. The supplements allegedly came complete with fake certificates of analysis and authenticity.

Back in February, a NYC government investigation found mislabeled dietary supplements at several major stores, including GNC, Walgreens, and Target. Deceptions like that can have major consequences: A study published last month found that dietary supplements (labeled correctly or not) are responsible for nearly 23,000 emergency department visits every year. In the study, women accounted for more than half of those visits, partly because weight-loss supplements — usually aimed at women — were found to cause the most frequent serious side effects.

More than half of all adults in the U.S. take some kind of supplement, whether or not we actually need them. So hopefully this crackdown will bring a new atmosphere of regulation and safety to an industry that touches a ton of lives. And can we just editorialize for a sec? Maybe consider getting your nutrition from good, old-fashioned food.