Disease claims have long been a thorn in the U.S. dietary supplement industry’s side—and recently that thorn has grown more painful. Just this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instructed U.S. Marshals to seize supplement products from two different companies because the products’ labels carried disease claims.

Although the majority of supplement marketers operating today stay within the limits of the structure/function claims allowed by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), some do not—and as any supplement trade association executive will tell you, those marketers crossing the claims line threaten the reputation and prosperity of all supplement brands.

“When a company makes outrageous claims for a product, that can color consumer impressions of all our claims,” says Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).  

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) work in unison to monitor the claims made for dietary supplement companies. But with limited budgets and a host of other industries under their regulatory umbrellas, the agencies can only do so much when it comes to cracking down on illegal supplement claims.

That’s why CRN and the National Products Association (NPA) are both working to eliminate unlawful supplement claims through their own separate programs. But just how successful are these and other ad-monitoring initiatives, and what’s required for industry self-regulation to be successful in this day and age?