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Recalled Supplements Sold Long After Danger Is Known

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating the safety, efficacy and security of drugs, medical devices, foods, cosmetics and biological products. The FDA investigates claims of dangerous drugs and other agents and, in some cases, orders recalls for products that pose a threat. Unfortunately, one of the fastest growing and most poorly understood markets is one where the FDA has the least power.

Dietary supplements are not subject to the same constraints as pharmaceuticals. These products are not required to go through the same safety testing as drugs. They are treated more like food. Food does not have to be good for the consumer to make it to supermarket shelves. It simply has to be free of pathogens, such as salmonella. 

The makers of some dietary supplements have not shown the same concern for consumer safety as most food producers. The companies involved can dissolve and reform, seemingly overnight, to continue maximizing profit through shoddy practices. One recent study showed that more than 50 percent of supplements that were recalled by the FDA for containing banned drugs could still be purchased by consumers months or even years after the recalls were issued.

The recalls for the products analyzed ran the gamut of unsafe substances. One contained a drug linked to cancer. One contained a substance tied to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The products represented all the safety risks associated with high profile drug recalls, but none of the testing to back up claims that the products had any benefit whatsoever. Before taking a dietary supplement, it is important to consult a doctor and check that the supplement in question has not been recalled. Finding it on a shelf or purchasing it through a website is no guarantee of safety.

Source: Reuters, "Recalled, drug-tainted supplements still available for purchase," by Kathryn Doyle, 21 October 2014 

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