The FDA took a step today that may very well save thousands of lives. With the recent death of Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler, the dangers of dietary supplements are once again in the news. And the FDA has finally taken notice. It proposed the first manufacturing standards for dietary supplements today. Health food stores say the regulation is long overdue, especially for those containing ephedra.
"I think it does need to be regulated," says Christy Teter of Sue's Super Nutrition. "Traditionally it's used for dealing with respiratory and bronchial problems such as asthma. It was never intended to be used as a diet product."
Under a 1994 law, supplements can be sold without first proving they're safe, or if they deliver the benefits they promise. There isn't even a way to ensure a bottle contains the amount of pure ingredients it's supposed to. There are voluntary standards in place, but only a few companies follow them. These possible new FDA guidelines would promise the buyer that all ingredients were tested and that they're actually getting the dose the bottle says they are. Teter says most people don't know what's in the supplements or who's producing them.
"It comes back to the company again," says Teter. "Knowing that company, how long they've been in business and where they buy those products from. Are they the company that owns those herbs?"
Teter says the FDA does this all the time.
"They have pharmaceutical drugs they list on TV that have not been approved that they test out to see how everyone reacts," she explains. "And then they give the long list of this is the side effects."
These proposed rules will be open for public comment for three months. The FDA is expected to issue final regulation next year. Larger companies would be forced to comply with the standards first - but smaller companies would have up to three years to meet the guidelines