Myth 2: What’s Listed on the Label is What’s Really in the Product
The Truth: Supplement manufacturers must list each ingredient (and its quantity) in a product, but they don’t have to prove the accuracy of these lists. Limited in resources, the FDA doesn’t check that what’s inside a product jibes with what’s on its label, either. Often labels don’t match contents: 30 percent of “multivitamins” tested by ConsumerLab.com, an independent nutrition product testing service and consumer watchdog group, were “off” for at least one ingredient, says Tod Cooperman, M.D., the group’s president. Some delivered doses well below those listed on the label; one was tainted with potentially dangerous levels of lead.
Manufacturers can pay to have products tested by ConsumerLab.com or a similar independent company, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), usp.org, to verify that the formula 1) is what it’s supposed to be, 2) doesn’t contain contaminants, and 3) dissolves properly in the body. (Note: such certification doesn’t guarantee safety or effectiveness, just that a product is what the label says.) “Passing” products earn the right to bear a special seal. The absence of a seal doesn’t necessarily signal a bad product: big companies often do their own quality-assurance testing.
The Bottom Line: Buy products with a certified seal—such as the USP seal or certification from ConsumerLab.com—or an established brand.