U.S. dietary supplements often contaminated: report

Tue Aug 3, 2010 6:14am EDT
 
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Many popular dietary supplements contain ingredients that may cause cancer, heart problems, liver or kidney damage, but U.S. stores sell them anyway and Americans spend millions on them, according to Consumer Reports.

The consumer magazine published a report on Tuesday highlighting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's lack of power to regulate such supplements, and said the agency rarely uses what little power it does have.

The report from the influential group urged Congress to speed up small moves toward giving the agency more clout, especially in regulating supplements.

Despite the "natural" labels carried by many of the supplements, many are contaminated.

Yet Americans flock to take them, according to the magazine, citing the Nutrition Business Journal as saying the market was worth $26.7 billion in 2009.

"Of the more than 54,000 dietary supplement products in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, only about a third have some level of safety and effectiveness that is supported by scientific evidence," the report reads.

In addition, the FDA has not inspected any supplement factories in China, even though the agency set up field offices there starting in 2008, Consumer Reports said.

The organization pointed to 12 supplement ingredients in particular that it said could be dangerous: aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe.   Continued...