Frontline segment on supplement safety skewed and misleading

Communications Committee

Chairperson: Suzanne Shelton (The Shelton Group Public Relations)
Staff Contact: Haley Chitty

Committee Purpose:

  • To generate positive publicity about herbs and to counteract adverse publicity promptly;
  • To publicize AHPA's activities on behalf of the herbal products industry.

AHPA Members, if you would like to join this committee, please email the staff contact.


Committee Meeting Minutes and News

Frontline segment on supplement safety skewed and misleading

AHPA Update

Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A segment that aired tonight on PBS' Frontline presents dietary supplements as inherently unsafe by misrepresenting the rigorous safety provisions established for these products under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, the strict liability statute under which supplements are regulated. The segment, titled "Supplements and Safety," relies on anecdotal reports of noncompliant products without informing viewers that these products are subject to aggressive enforcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and in fact implying the opposite. The program went on to represent a fraction of the products on the market, which the FDA has the authority to remove, as representative of the entire industry.

"The regulated supplement industry is completely committed to selling safe products and to complying with the federal laws that ensure product safety, and has a long history of adherence to current rules and advocating for strong enforcement of the rules," said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. "The content and tone of the Frontline segment presents a skewed portrayal of the supplement marketplace by ignoring the majority of supplement companies that ensure their products are safe and are properly manufactured and labeled, and who often go beyond what is required by federal law in order to meet the needs of their most demanding customers."

Contrary to Frontline's portrayal of dietary supplements, these products are regulated by a host of laws and federal agencies all designed to ensure supplements are safe, produced in a quality manner, do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled. But these federal regulations provide just a baseline standard to ensure supplement safety and quality, and many companies take additional steps to meet consumer demands for attributes such as organically grown or sustainably produced, or to provide evidence of supply chain management or 3rd-party certification of manufacturing operations.

"Any portrayal of the supplement marketplace that omits or belittles the existing laws and regulations and the commitment of the best supplement marketers is inherently misleading," added McGuffin.

Additional information about supplement safety and regulation is available online.

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is the national trade association and voice of the herbal and botanical products industry. AHPA is comprised of more than 300 domestic and foreign companies doing business as growers, processors, manufacturers, and marketers of herbs and herbal products, including foods, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and non-prescription drugs. Founded in 1982, AHPA's mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products.


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