Evaluating Supplement Adulteration
How BSCG Deals with Supplement Adulteration
Challenges Present in the Dietary Supplement Industry’s Lax Oversight Leads to Unscrupulous Manufacturers Spelling Problems for Consumers
While the majority of dietary supplement manufacturers are honest, responsible and present few health risks and little potential to cause positive drug tests for athletes, the industry also has a number of shady manufacturers whose products are problematic or even dangerous. Their supplements might contain stimulants, pro-hormones or other anabolic agents not listed on the ingredients list that can trigger positive doping tests and cause serious health problems. This risk is always present with supplement adulteration. “Adulteration” is a legal term meaning that a food product fails to meet federal or state standards. Adulteration usually refers to noncompliance with health or safety standards as determined, in the United States, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Raw materials can be contaminated
The raw materials that make up the ingredients in a dietary supplement can present additional problems. For even honest manufacturers are not always aware of the exact contents of all of the raw materials in their products. Sometimes these raw materials are inexpensive and come from local sources, often they are shipped from other countries where quality control standards might not be as rigorous as those found in the United States. Contaminants can and do make their way into the raw materials found in supplement products being sold legally.
Unsettling high numbers of problematic supplements
A comprehensive study commissioned by the International Olympic Committee back in 2001 analyzed 634 non-hormonal nutritional supplements bought from 215 different suppliers in 13 different countries and found that a whopping 14.8% tested positive for at least one anabolic agent alone. Many of those testing positive originated in the United States.
DSHEA created barriers for regulation
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 regulates dietary supplement sales in the United States, and provides supplement adulteration. Regrettably, DSHEA places the burden of proof on the Food and Drug Administration to show that a product intended to supplement the diet creates an unreasonable risk of illness or injury, and should therefore be prohibited. As was demonstrated in 2004 when the FDA attempted to ban ephedra only to have the ban subsequently overturned by a federal court, this is often a difficult burden for the FDA to meet.
FDA can only test a small fraction of products
Though the FDA is the federal body charged with regulating dietary supplements and protecting the public’s health, it only has the resources needed to test a small fraction of dietary supplements that could be problematic. As the FDAcurrently warns on its website, “Remember, (the) FDA cannot test all products on the market that contain potentially harmful hidden ingredients. Enforcement actions and consumer advisories for tainted products only cover a small fraction of the tainted over-the-counter products on the market.”
Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 has limited impact
Responding to criticism that arose after it was revealed that some athletes (most notably baseball players) were using pro-hormones that were available over-the-counter in the United States, Congress enacted the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004. This law, which took effect in January 2005, bans the sale of most steroid precursors such as androstenedione. Unfortunately, the Act leaves in place an exception for the steroid precursor dehydroepiandrosterone, more commonly known as DHEA, which is considered a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency and many other sporting bodies.
BSCG offers effective solutions
BSCG’s programs—for Elite Athletes & Professionals, Equine & Canine and Consumer Protection—fill a significant gap in the dietary supplement industry and aim to help average consumers and elite athletes alike differentiate safe products from those products that present unnecessary risks. BSCG, which has never certified a product that led to a positive drug test, uses the most up-to-date science to provide manufacturers and consumers with the best and most useful information available.