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Capitol Health Call
July 14, 2010

Supplements Scrutinized

JAMA. 2010;304(2):148. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.877

Certain dietary supplements were deceptively or questionably marketed, said the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a report. The report also said that 37 of the 40 herbal dietary supplement products tested by the GAO contained trace amounts of at least 1 potentially hazardous contaminant (such as lead, mercury, or arsenic), although none of them in amounts considered to pose an acute toxicity hazard (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10662t.pdf).

Some lawmakers are suggesting legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration safety oversight of dietary supplements.

The report was requested by Sen Herb Kohl (D, Wis), chairman of the Senate's Special Committee on Aging, who held a May 26 hearing on the marketing and manufacturing of dietary supplements. Kohl noted in his opening statement that at least 40% of US adults consume these products and urged that any food safety legislation passed by Congress require registration of companies that manufacture and sell dietary supplements so that the Food and Drug Administration can identify and act on safety concerns.

“Now, let's be clear that no one is suggesting that consumers should not be able to take vitamins or other dietary supplements,” said Kohl in his statement. “Our concern is that they be able to do so safely.”