How do I know my supplements are safe?

Twenty years after the landmark Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) defined the supplement category and established a framework to regulate it, the question remains a hot topic among consumers, retailers, lawmakers and manufacturers. 

Media reports continue to erroneously suggest that “supplements are not regulated.” Occasional high-profile accounts of recalls and seizures threaten to chip away at the industry’s hard-earned reputation. A single study (as questionable as its design may be) has the power to derail sales
of a supplement with a formidable scientific record (as did the July, 2013 study linking omega-3 fatty acids to prostate cancer risk). And consumers remain confused about how to distinguish between reputable companies and bad apples.

“As an industry, we can’t get complacent,” says Judy Blatman, senior vice president of communications for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). “We need to continue to improve our track record. We also need to find more ways to help consumers identify those companies that are in compliance with the myriad of regulations, versus those that give the industry a bad name.”

To that end, here’s a guide to what’s already been done to assure the safety of dietary supplements, and what stakeholders can do going forward.