More than 150 million Americans consume some form of dietary supplement. These supplements range from vitamin pills to herbal concoctions claiming to treat any number of maladies. Unfortunately, dietary supplements are the cause of more than 50 percent of all drug recalls where the product is pulled for its potential to cause “serious adverse health consequences or death.” Such recalls are called Class I drug recalls by the Food and Drug Administration. The high rate of recalls is almost certainly related to the fact that dietary supplements are not required to obtain FDA approval prior to being sold to consumers. Anyone taking a dietary supplement should be aware of the dangers of these largely unregulated products.
While any type of dietary supplement could be dangerous, the types that most commonly contain toxic or harmful ingredients are those marketed as sexual enhancement aids, bodybuilding supplements and weight loss drugs. Many of these products are made outside the United States in conditions that would shock any health conscious person.
The level of oversight by the FDA may be surprising to many consumers. The truth is, the FDA generally discovers a dangerous supplement by receiving numerous complaints about consumers who have been harmed. People who have visions of rigorous testing and inspection of these drugs are fooling themselves. When the Office of the Inspector General investigated, it determined that the FDA has inaccurate contact information for one in five supplement makers. That means that when a dangerous product is discovered, the FDA will not even know who to call.
Source: Forbes, “Massive Drug Recalls are a Wake-Up Call for Vitamin and Supplement Industry,” by David DiSalvo, 18 April 2013