Most Consumers Doubt Retailers’ Knowledge of Supplement Product Safety
Americans favor new requirements for manufacturers to enhance FDA oversight, market transparency
About 80 percent of adults in the United States have used supplements for dietary or other purposes. These products can contain a variety of substances, including vitamins, minerals, plant and animal extracts, hormones, and amino acids. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety of supplements, and nearly all adults say the agency should have this responsibility. However, 7 in 10 think the FDA is unable to keep them safe from harmful products with the existing regulatory tools. Ninety-five percent of adults and supplement users support requiring that manufacturers inform the FDA about all the supplements they make and their ingredients.
These findings and the following data come from a nationally representative survey of Americans age 18 and older, conducted in May 2019 for The Pew Charitable Trusts.1
The benefits of a product listing requirement
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 governs the FDA’s oversight of supplements and generally allows for review of a product’s safety only after it is on the market and officials receive reports of potential health risks or consumer harm. Consequently, the agency knows little about the estimated 80,000 supplement products available to consumers.
Requiring manufacturers to provide the FDA with basic information about their supplement products, including their ingredients, would improve the agency’s ability to safeguard public health with its existing regulatory tools. For example, if the agency learned of risks associated with a specific ingredient, it could easily pinpoint other products with the same component and take steps to alert manufacturers and consumers. Product lists published by the agency would also give retailers a mechanism to ensure that supplements they sell have been listed with the FDA.
- SSRS, an independent research company, conducted the survey for Pew via an online probability panel. Interviews took place May 17-29, 2019, among a sample of 1,000 total respondents. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the design effect. The margin of error is larger for subgroups. For full results and methodology, please visit: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2019/10/01/most-supplement-users-back-enhanced-fda-oversight-of-these-products.
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