Are My Supplements Safe?

supplements You’ve undoubtedly heard about the sting operation against GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart that found the majority of the herbal supplements sold at those stores, did not have any of the herb listed on the label.  Instead there were things like crushed up rice, asparagus and household plants.

This is horrible and does absolutely nothing for the alternative health care industry.

Now I don’t know if these companies knowingly put all that garbage in their supplement bottles or not.  I’d like to think they weren’t aware of what was going on, but ultimately only they know the answer to that.

Here’s a little about how the supplement industry works . . .

Let’s say you wanted to create your own supplement product to sell.  Yes you’d have to create a label and go through some legal things, but in actually creating the product, you’d need to purchase ingredients.  Let’s say you wanted your supplement to have Echinacea and vitamin C in it.

You’d search around for companies that sold those in bulk form so you could put them in your capsules in the amounts you wanted to have.

You place your order and get a couple large bags of your ingredients.  The shipment will often come with an invoice and something called a “Certificate of Analysis”.

This Certificate of Analysis is supplied by the company sending you the ingredient and often has information on potency (how much vitamin C per milligram for example), authenticity (is it actually vitamin C), and microbiology (testing for bacteria and other microbes).  The company that sends you their product supposedly does the testing and is sending the Certificate of Analysis themselves.  (See a problem here yet?)

So here you are, a start-up company with limited funds.  What do you do – spend the money to get the ingredients tested yourself by a third-party, or trust that it is what the company says it is?  Exactly.

This is how many supplement companies work.  They buy the ingredients, put them in capsules in a factory somewhere, put them in a bottle, and sell them.  But not all supplement companies are the same.

Some companies to “spot testing” which means they occasionally test an ingredient for potency, authenticity and microbiology.  If they catch an ingredient that isn’t what it says it is, they send it back to the ingredient company and guess what – that company will likely turn right back around and send it to a different supplement company that hopefully doesn’t do any testing.

Other companies test every batch of ingredients that comes to them.  Better yes, some companies go above and beyond that, and do additional testing for things like solvents, heavy metals, aflatoxins, rancidity, PCBs, herbicides, etc.

So getting back to whether or not GNC, Walmart, Walgreens and Target knew they were selling total garbage, I don’t know.  Maybe they thought they were getting certain ingredients, but never bothered testing themselves.  On the other hand, maybe they did know.   Who knows.

What I do know is that if you’ve taken a subpar, box-store supplement and didn’t feel any better, maybe it’s because you were basically taking ground up house plants.  And, all supplements are not created equal. 

Nutrition works.  Herbs work.  There are countless studies demonstrating this.  But you get what you pay for and for me and my family, investing a little more in a company that actually tests their products is worth it.  Why are those supplements more expensive?  Because they spend the money testing their products themselves, which gets passed along to us and again.

So the bottom line?  If you want to save money by shopping at Walmart, buy their toilet paper or batteries, but buy your food and supplements from somewhere that cares a little more about what they are selling.

PS: If you want safe supplements & ones that are personalized to you, take a  free personalized supplement assessment here.