The issue of product adulteration and its potential fallout could impact every part of the dietary supplements sector.

Ingredient suppliers could face decreasing sales related to the sexual enhancement, weight management and bodybuilding categories. More important, however, is that all suppliers selling ingredients associated with these categories could be suspected as being potential contributors to the spiking problem. Therefore, suppliers should expect extra scrutiny from scrupulous manufacturers buying from them. Of course, in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” environment that frequently exists within the ingredient market, some manufacturers unfortunately don’t care if they are purchasing adulterated or sub-standard ingredients. But is it wise to do business with these companies? As a supplier, it is in your and the industry’s best interests to strengthen and support your relationships with responsible manufacturers.

Manufacturers operating in the weight-loss, bodybuilding and sexual enhancement categories also face additional risk, scrutiny and liability. This is where certain product-level certifications, such as the NSF Certified for Sport program, can provide credibility and value. As awareness of category-based problems continues to rise, manufacturers should expect to see larger retailers take steps to reduce their exposure in these categories. Manufacturers can differentiate their products by the actions they take in purchasing and testing and by communicating those actions downstream.

For retailers, understanding this issue is crucial. As the FDA communicated in its recent alert, the agency sees retailers as having a legal responsibility to ensure that the products they sell are not adulterated. Therefore, retailers should expect more regulatory scrutiny in all categories, especially the suspect ones. For this reason, it is more important than ever for retailers to know and understand a brand manufacturer’s commitment to quality, which can be measured in the form of certifications and trade association memberships.

In the end, all companies operating with the dietary supplement industry have a responsibility to help eradicate product adulteration or risk harming their most important constituent: consumers. As Jim Hamilton, president of the global ingredient supply company DSM Nutritional Products, said during the 2010 CRN symposium, “We have great trust with consumers, and we have to take that trust seriously.”