The Story So Far…
In January of this year, PBS’s investigative program Frontline aired a story calling into question the safety and efficacy of supplements. The story quickly spread to other news outlets. Many accused the supplement industry of being completely unregulated and rife with fraudulent claims, inaccurate and dangerous ingredients, and powerful lobbyists determined to maintain Wild West-style lawlessness.
Not surprisingly, the overall effect on spectators to this controversy was one of fear and mistrust of products they may have been using for years without any problems.
We were asked by concerned customers to address the quality of our private label Common Market brand supplements. Private label products may appear most highly suspect amongst all supplement options because the manufacturer is not always easily identifiable.
Our private label supplements are made by Reliance Vitamin Company. Reliance is a privately owned company that prides itself on quality, innovation, and transparency.
The FDA recommends that consumers choose supplements wisely and ask the manufacturer the following:
1. What information does the firm have to substantiate the claims made for the product?
2. Does the firm have information to share about tests it has conducted on the safety or efficacy of the ingredients in the product?
3. Does the firm have a quality control system in place to determine if the product actually contains what is stated on the label and is free of contaminants?
4. Has the firm received any adverse events reports from consumers using their products?
We asked these questions of Reliance and were pleased to find that Reliance was entirely forthcoming with their answers.
Since 1978, Reliance has provided retailers with private label supplements that boast the following:
Over 50 patented and trademarked ingredients
Reliance has developed alliances with the world’s leading ingredient manufacturers. Unlike most ingredient suppliers, these companies perform research to ensure the effectiveness on their ingredients. Clinically tested ingredients back these trademarked ingredients.
European-sourced standardized herbal extracts
In Europe, herbal extracts are regulated as medicines and must be proven safe and effective before an herbal product is allowed to go to market. European extracts are generally the highest quality ingredients available in the global marketplace. European manufacturers of herbal products are required to perform safety studies, clinical controls, and show strong quality control. This regulatory environment ensures that a European herbal extract is safe for human consumption and that it will be effective for its intended medical purpose.
Each product must contain the specific compounds known to be important contributors to the effectiveness of the product. The final chemical analysis must include testing for many impurities such as heavy metals, pesticides, and herbicides to make sure they are kept within safe limits.
Independent Laboratory Analysis of finished product
Reliance products are tested by independent, FDA-inspected labs. These tests evaluate the identity and potency of each product through: High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Gas Chromatography (GC), Spectrophotometric Analysis, Atomic Absorption or Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) methods.
Reliance fish oil products adhere to the quality guidelines set forth by GOED, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA. They consistently test for microbial/fungal and heavy metal contaminants as well as potency. They also get third party tests of freshness. They consistently test at or below recommended levels.
Full disclosure of the ingredient suppliers
Reliance has a strong commitment to transparency. They reveal the sources of their ingredients more openly than other brands. They believe this kind of openness is critical to building and maintaining trust. Reliance has not had any adverse event reports on any of the items in their private label stock assortment.
While we feel it did not offer a balanced picture of the full scope of supplements, the Frontline story did raise legitimate issues within the industry. There certainly have been and are bad actors and quality issue do exist. The industry must do a better job of quality control and self-monitoring.
Consumers and decision makers must think critically. Find the companies who put their quality assurances in writing because those businesses are willing to be held up to scrutiny and be held accountable. Avoid supplements that promise quick fixes such as instant energy, weight loss, male potency, and muscle building. Above all, consumers should ask questions and look for evidence.
It is important for the store you frequent to be dedicated to finding the answers to these questions from their suppliers. The Common Market is grateful to our concerned shoppers for letting us know what matters to them and how we can better meet their needs.