There’s been a lot in the news lately about the recall of a popular weight loss supplement, origin China. This has made the news with a splash, but in reality it isn’t anything new. Products have been coming into the US market for years which are mislabeled. Sure, the ‘deception’ isn’t always as sinister as with this recent episode, but deception is what it is and it’s harming the consumer.
In case you haven’t heard, a rather large and popular Chinese herbal manufacturer (who shall remain nameless here, you can Google their name if you wish), decided that adding a prescription drug to their herbal formula would produce better results for their users. The drug added, sibutramine, was removed from the market in the USA as it was found to have harmful side effects – including increasing blood pressure and raising the level of risk in persons with cardiovascular problems. And of course the added substance was not declared on the product ingredient label, it couldn’t be or it would never have made it to the shelf.
The insult to the consumer is a double whammy in this instance. People who might take sibutramine for its appetite suppressing properties, but could not do so due to having high blood pressure, found themselves taking it anyway, unknowingly.
Let’s stop there with the focus on a single incident, as I said earlier, this has been going on for many years.
But how does it happen within an industry so carefully regulated?
It’s simple really. When herbal products are manufactured overseas, they usually arrive here already packaged, labeled and ready to hit the shelf. There isn’t a legal requirement to break open the package and test the contents, so the onus is on the integrity of the manufacturing company and their observing local regulations in the country of origin.
But what are their local regulations? We don’t know. Of course the FDA and FTC require supplements to be labeled in a specific way and of course they require the label to accurately reflect what is inside the product. But the trail is retroactive. For a problem to be found there has first to be an issue, after which the FDA can work backwards to the source of the problem.
For products manufactured here in the USA it’s a different scenario. All herbal/drug/pharmaceutical companies are regulated by the FDA. To package products for the US market it is necessary to do so from within a FDA licensed facility. The FDA do not just grant a license then walk away, they subject the facility to frequent inspections.
A typical inspection involves the manufacturer producing a complete list of all products made between inspections. With this list is attached the product label. With the product label is attached a Certificate of Analysis for all of the product ingredients. The C of A is produced by the raw ingredient supplier for the manufacturer. The manufacturer/processor must test individual ingredients against a list of specific requirements. If the ingredients on the label include weight(mg), then the final blended product must be further tested to determine that the powder weight for each of the active ingredients is what it says on the label.
So there’s a very clear and concise path through all stages of procurement, manufacture and supply, to determine the integrity of the ingredients and the accuracy of the product labeling. This isn’t checked retroactively, it’s checked proactively during periodic inspections.
That’s not to say that it’s perfect by any means, but it’s a lot closer than anything coming into the country from overseas.
To summarize, when you buy imported products, you are at risk of consuming something containing harmful ingredients which are not listed on the label. You are at risk of consuming a product which is ineffectual because what IS printed on the label is not actually contained within the product. (Some Chinese origin bee pollen products are notorious for being made up of filler with very little active ingredient).
The choice is yours. Since it’s your choice, your money and your health, we recommend that you buy USA made products.