Echinacea and Vitamin C tablets are just two of the products out on the market that tout immune boosting support. There are others that also claim weight loss benefits. However, a recent report released by the Department of Health and Human Services' general inspector found that with many of these products, not only is there no scientific backing for such claims, but in some cases the supplements can actually do more harm than good.
For this report, government investigators purchased 127 different immune-boosting and weight loss supplements online and in retail stores. Of those, it was found 20 percent had labels making illegal claims to be able to treat or cure certain illnesses. In some cases, the products even went as far as to claim to prevent or cure diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
In another 7 percent of the products being reviewed it was also found that the companies were not including a disclaimer that the FDA had not reviewed the claims on the labels.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration does not require companies to submit scientific evidence for the claims being made. This means that a company could say their product helps prevent diabetes, when in fact it does not. However, there should still be a label for the consumer to know the claims have not been reviewed by the FDA.
What's even more troubling is that in some cases where companies did opt to submit evidence, what was submitted fell short. For example, one company handed in a 30-year-old college term paper to try and prove its claims. In another case, links to unreliable sources, such as Wikipedia, were submitted to try and substantiate claims.
When it comes to customer safety, the fear is that some will hear the health claims made by companies and decide to stop taking their prescription medications and rely solely on these supplements.
With this report, the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general is encouraging the FDA to have more oversight when it comes to the claims these companies are making to the general public.