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Irresponsible Reporting Vs. An Irresponsible Supplement Industry!

To the consumer I say get educated and stop feeding the engine of ignorance & hypocrisy (Mr. Hurley/Mr. Seckman). To the supplement industry I say get your act together or go bust; suggestions below. Read on...

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CBS Evening News

There is no doubt that the media, the powers vested in the Federal Trade Commission and Food & Drug Administration succumb to powerful lobbying groups - You can still buy a pack of cigarettes despite millions of reported smoking related deaths or witness FDA approved prescription medications like Vioxx and Fen-Phen get pulled from the shelves of pharmacies after numerous deaths are attributed directly to their use.

The hypocrisy in their actions is very evident and it is almost sickening at times. However, given the present scenario which CBS news has alluded to, a war of words is not going to cause real action to save this industry which has been cast upon the chopping block. The executioners axe is now casting it's shadow over the industry as a whole.

Looming Shadow

In the first segment, a news reporter is in the kitchen of Mrs. Kraft placing herbal tea into neat little packets. While that may seem innocent you have to look at that in a different light. What if that was Mr. Kraft capping a designer steroid that he was going to distribute through a small ad in the back of a magazine?

The problem is that both are classified as dietary supplements. Everything from vitamin C all they way up to the newly marketed post prohormone era anabolics presently sold on the market are technically covered under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

To the educated supplement consumer the difference is clearly visible; however, to the rest of America, which constitutes CBS' audience and those who put elected officials into office, it is not.

When America hears the word "supplement" they automatically think back to Mark McGuire pleading the 5th in front of the Government Reform Committee on live television or a crying mother whose son died while at football practice who was taking ephedra. It's this relationship of the word "supplements" and media images like the one presented by CBS of a woman who had her nose burned off which is killing the industry.

Regulation is around the corner because Mrs. John Q Smith doesn't want to see little Billy taking a "supplement" like those other people who were embarrassed or depicted with horrible scars on the nightly news. The bastardization of the word itself is why we are losing the war to keep our rights to supplements.

Author Dan Hurley is playing to the fears of this very crowd and those evil "supplements." His book, Natural Causes, is clearly biased in its approach. Citing peer reviewed research to claim all vitamins don't have any added benefit is a profoundly irresponsible statement and CBS itself should be ashamed for not leaving that on the cutting room floor.

The National Academy of Sciences
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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is an honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.
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I guess Mr. Hurley overlooked the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stance on Recommended Daily Allowances of numerous vitamins. You will also note that CBS coupled St. John's Wort with Echinacea which were found to have no efficacy based on US government funded research with Hurley's gross assertion which clearly negates the NAS. Contradictory statements in the same soundbite is enough to make you nauseous.

Obviously, this is irresponsible reporting at it's finest but then again, this is the reality of the environment in which the supplement industry must operate. Will lambasting the FDA or CBS on forums, our private conversations, or even in this response article change the present state of affairs?

I hate to break it to you but the answer is clearly NO! It's not going to stop Sharyn Alfonsi and it certainly is not going to stop Amy Shipley. They have to pay the mortgage too.

A Piece Of The Pie

The issue here is that anyone who is trying to be a profiteer in the supplement industry wants their own slice of the estimated $20 billion dollar. Companies like EAS, MuscleTech, BSN, NOW Foods and Optimum each walk away with their own large slices and which is obvious by their market visibility.

That still leaves millions of dollars to be made and as a result you have quick buck artists like the make believe Mr. Kraft impinging on Mrs. Kraft's good will and her grandma's best kept secret. Whether big or small everyone in the industry is shoving elbows to claim their piece.

In order to do so you must advertise in some form whether it be in an 8 page "Special Report" featured in a popular bodybuilding magazine, having Anna Nicole Smith oiled up wearing a red bikini, or claiming you have found the "Holy Grail" across various supplement forums or your supplement description.

In the race to get the biggest piece of pie the claims of supplements have become more ridiculous and even worse, have attracted the attention of both the FTC and FDA.

Just recently, the FTC fined marketers of Xenadrine EFX, CortiSlim, TrimSpa, and One-A-Day WeightSmart in order to combat these ridiculous campaigns which were full of false and unsubstantiated claims. Now these fines, which totaled $25 million, are chump change to these companies but nevertheless it just highlights how the watchful eye of Uncle Sam is becoming more ominous.


So what can the industry do to save itself from media scrutiny and an eventual full overhaul of the DSHEA in the wake of the new Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act enacted in just December of last year?

Here are my humble suggestions:

  1. Use compounds which have been researched and have 3rd party peer reviewed evidence to support claims.
  2. Improve quality control measures in manufacturing processes.
  3. Stop making ridiculous claims and citing false evidence in your advertisements. ALL COMPANIES ARE GUILTY OF THIS!
  4. Start your lobbying for your own regulatory agency or create a council to better ensure accountability in manufacturing and label claims.
  5. Fund your own 3rd party peer-reviewed research like EAS, Muscletech, and Gaspari Nutrition.

The FDA and FTC don't have the resources to properly oversee the industry or separate those who are guilty of deception from those who are marketing responsibly. As a result, they will cave into media scrutiny which fuels America's negative image giving more leverage to the powerful pharmaceutical lobby.

Mistakes On Both Sides

In the second segment aired on CBS, "How to Regulate Supplements?" it is clearly depicted what is wrong in the industry. The head of the Natural Products Association, David Seckman, goes onto claim that supplements are safe and proven to work.

Just like featured author David Hurley was wrong in his assessment of vitamins, Mr. Seckman is irresponsible in saying all supplements are safe and proven. Anyone remember creatine serum and methasteron? He himself is guilty of grouping the good with the bad and should also be ashamed of himself.

As you can clearly see both CBS' depiction of the supplement industry as whole is extremely flawed but then again the industry itself provides the fuel for their story. It's this negative press which is surely going to ensure that the industry becomes regulated by government agencies which are ill equipped to do so.

This will ultimately lead to stringent laws which will address the glittering generalities highlighted in the mass media rather then solve the issues of false advertising and quality control which most supplement companies are guilty of in one form or the other.

The bottom line here is that the power lies within the industry itself to correct its own mistakes and avoid regulation but more so, the power lies within all of you. For you consumers out their crying foul on CBS and the government for impinging on your rights, your efforts would be better spent writing to your local congressmen or senator expressing your freedom of speech all the while educating your parents, coworkers, and peers on the benefits of supplements.

It's breaking the stereotype cast upon the word "supplement" which will preserve your right to choose. Supporting responsibility and actively protesting irresponsibility is what will help save the industry from itself. I just hope it's not too late.