Phony Herbal Supplements

Phony Herbal SupplementsThere is an item making the rounds on the major news outlets that probably comes as a surprise to many people but is something about which I’ve been aware for many years. Those herbal supplements you’ve been taking … are not what they purport to be.

Researchers tested products from twelve companies and found only two that were listing correct ingredients while the rest were selling “shoddy” product. These companies were putting in cheap and often toxic ingredients instead of the purported herbs in an attempt to increase their profit margin.

These herbal supplements are part of a $5 billion industry, an unregulated industry. People swear by them with the same fervor they swear that copper bracelets alleviate the pain of their arthritis and Power Bracelets boosting athletic performance.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that there are about 50,000 “adverse events” a year caused by herbal supplements although most are not reported.

The real reason for my blog post is not to lambaste those who believe herbal supplements are healthy but to address what is certain to become a call for the government to regulate this “out-of-control” industry. The FDA already oversees a great deal but because these herbal supplements don’t fit into either the food or the drug category they have thus far escaped supervision. With this new data there are sure to be calls for regulation.

I have no issue with holding companies to their word. If a supplement company claims their product is Echinacea then it should be so. If it is not there are legal remedies available to consumers. Local, State, and Federal government can and should hand out fines. What I don’t see as being helpful is the government stepping in to tell supplement companies how to make their product.

Anyone who doesn’t realize there is a potential problem with the supplements they purchase simply hasn’t bothered to do the requisite research. Information is available and readily found on the internet.

I’d like to examine what I think would be the result of government regulation as opposed to vigilant consumer action. The supplement companies would spend money on various political campaign via contributions and lobbyist. The laws that eventually came down from Washington would be designed to benefit the largest of these companies while hindering the smallest.

If, on the other hand, consumers paid attention to the supplements they were putting in their body and only purchased from the two companies that actually did what they claimed they were doing, those two companies would thrive while the shoddy operations failed. That’s capitalism in action and that is good for consumers and business owners who operate ethically.

When the government gets involved we largely end up with the illusion of safety where little actually exists. Organic foods are not organic. They meet the government definition of organic but that has become largely meaningless thanks to lobbyists convincing politicians to pervert the laws.

We live in the burgeoning information age and with it comes the ability to change the world for the better. If you are putting supplements into your body and don’t know the readily available information about the reputation of the provider then I don’t have a lot of sympathy for you.

I don’t much like the way factory farms treat chickens and I buy eggs from sources that have “pastured” animals. That’s my decision to make. If enough people make it then the industry changes. Government regulation is unlikely to bring about such a change.

If the supplement article shocks you then you have recourse, your purchasing habits.

To paraphrase a pretty wise fellow; Don’t ask what the government can do for you, ask what you can do for you.

Tom Liberman

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  1. Pingback: Health benefits of herbal supplements – The eBay Community | All About Supplements

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