The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is cracking down on a number of dietary supplement manufacturers who are being accused of breaking the law by lacing their products with undisclosed, and in some cases illegal, ingredients; making false claims about their safety and efficacy; and deliberately misleading consumers as to their true contents.
Benjamin C. Mizer, the DOJ’s Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, recently gave a press conference explaining how the agency is taking critical steps to stem the growing tide of unlawful dietary supplements being sold nationwide. At the forefront of the department’s sweep is a federal indictment filed against one of the nation’s largest sports supplement companies, Texas-based USPlabs.
According to the allegations, USPlabs has been illegally spiking some of its weight-loss and workout supplements with synthetic ingredients sourced from China, which the company has been labeling as “natural.” USPlabs is also being accused of presenting false certificates of analysis to dupe its customers into thinking that supplements have been properly tested for safety and authenticity.
USA Today reports that USPlabs executives are being charged with committing other crimes as well, including wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy, in connection to the scheme. At least four company executives and one consultant at USPlabs have been criminally indicted by the federal government in conjunction with the alleged crimes.
USPlabs “doctored packaging, labeling, and other paperwork to defraud others about what the product was,” Mizer explained at the press conference. “Much of the alleged fraud focused on the defendant’s claims that their products were made from natural plant extracts.”
The truth, Mizer says, is that the USPlabs products in question were “100 percent synthetic,” and that this deliberate deception by the company has “put lives at risk.” “Defendants sometimes tested the products on themselves and sold the ones that made them feel good.”
Illegally Spiked Supplements Linked To Liver Failure, Death
According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner for Global Regulatory Operations and Policy, Howard Sklamberg, the agency has sent hundreds of warning letters over the past few years to USPlabs and a number of other companies said to be engaged in similar crimes. But none of these companies have stopped spiking their products, the agency maintains.
USPlabs is receiving the brunt of the crackdown, due to the fact that some of its products have been linked to serious injury and even death. A product known as “OxyELITE Pro,” which USPlabs markets as “The #1 Fat Burner That’s MELTING the Market,” is connected to dozens of incidents of liver injury and at least one death, says the DOJ.
It wasn’t until the DOJ, the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and several other federal agencies also took an interest in the actions of USPlabs and the other now-indicted companies, that anything was even attempted to try to curb their illicit actions.
“Would the FDA have done anything about this on their own?” asked Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who published a report on the supplement industry back in October, as quoted by USA Today. “Without these outside organizations, I don’t think the FDA would even have acted.”
“The mainstream supplement industry has done nothing and finally the FDA is saying enough is enough… there are going to be criminal charges,” Cohen added.
The Health-Care Survivor’s Comment
While it is welcome news that an effort is being made to improve the safety of nutritional supplements, I have to wonder if a generalised crackdown of this nature may also damage some smaller, but perfectly reputable providers, by means of a dragnet approach.
This article contains a number of good references, which, as always I encourage you to read.