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New Supplement Safety Survey: Manufacturers Have Equal Responsibility as FDA Rids of Harmful Products

Deborah Killion



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New Survey Results: Manufacturers Have Equal Responsibility as the FDA Removes the Market of Harmful Products, Retailers Not Off the Hook!

In a national survey conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, it was found that 95% of consumers 18 and older are demanding more of manufacturers in terms of providing information on what goes into each product. That said, nearly 70 percent of consumers believe that the FDA is not fully successful in keeping said products away from households.

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Figure 1: Obtained from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The bar chart looks at the sentiments expressed by adult consumers in terms of the different supplements that exist.

Based on Figure 1, 71% of adults feel dietary supplements are pretty safe, with as little as 14% considering them as extremely safe. The least confidence consumers have is in weight loss supplements (25% pretty safe and 1% extremely safe), followed by the sexual performance (37% pretty safe, and 2% extremely safe) and sports supplements (53% pretty safe and 5% extremely safe). This shows that most consumers have little confidence that the supplement industry offers completely safe products.

The above sentiment was heavily reflected when asked how successful the FDA was in overseeing products that enter the market. As seen in Figure 2 below, 71% of those who’ve used supplements trust that the FDA is not able to keep consumers safe from harmful products.

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Figure 2: Obtained from The Pew Charitable Trusts. This bar graph compares the sentiments of supplements users and nonusers. The percentages reflect how adult consumers feel about the FDA's ability to protect consumers from harmful products.

Interestingly, those who have never tried supplements have conveyed similar sentiments. This is not of a surprise given that consumers are less to purchase goods if they lack confidence in them. Finally, the survey concludes that consumers want the FDA to place more restrictions and have more oversight on products that enter the market.

That said, consumers are not fully blaming the FDA for what enters the market, as equal importance has been given to manufacturers. As per Figure 3, 88% of consumers believe that manufacturers should be very responsible, followed by the FDA (75%) and retailers (33%). When generally speaking of responsibility, consumers feel manufacturers have the most responsibility (97%), then comes the FDA (94%) and retailers (71%).

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Figure 3: Obtained from The Pew Charitable Trusts. This bar graph shows that consumers don't believe the FDA is completely at fault and that manufacturers and retailers also have the responsibility to protect consumers from harmful products. Additionally, a pie graph looking at retailers’ knowledge of products was also provided.

One would assume that retailers would not be blamed for, as they are the intermediary between manufacturers and consumers. However, this is not the case. Consumers want retailers to be knowledgeable about the products they sell, as only 37% believe they know whether a product is safe or not.

Finally, consumers who’ve used or continue to use supplements have expressed strong support in several areas to ensure harmful products do not make it to their households. Some of the areas that consumers have expressed support in include:

  • The need to require manufacturers to provide the FDA with product and ingredients list (79%)
  • Ensuring that Congress allocates sufficient funds so that the FDA can oversee products (63%)
  • Manufacturers should incur some of the costs of listing database for mandatory product listing so that taxpayer dollars aren’t used for all of it (52%)

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Figure 4: Obtained from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Possible solutions consumers feel can help protect the supplements market are reflected above. The percentages express support/opposition when it comes to manufacturer transparency, Congress' role in funding and costs cleared by more than just taxpayer dollars.

In summary:

  • Adult consumers are not fully confident in the supplements industry, as many do not find product offerings as being extremely safe
  • Majority of supplement users and nonusers feel the FDA is not effective in hunting down harmful supplements and want more restrictions to be placed
  • The FDA is not the only one to be blamed, as manufacturers have equal responsibility
  • Retailers aren’t off the hook here either, as they should do their part in ensuring products are safe before shelving them
  • Manufacturers need to be more transparent with the FDA and should incur some of the cost of listing database
  • Congress needs to provide more funding so that the FDA can effectively oversee many products

To see the whole post from PEW, click here.

Featured Image Courtesy: Branimir76/Getty Images

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