What do those seals on your vitamin labels really mean?

“No supplement seal guarantees the safety or effectiveness of the ingredients in the bottle.”

When you see words like “verified”, “certified” or “approved” on your dietary supplement or vitamin seal, it’s important to understand who exactly is approving these products. Most people would confuse these labels for approval from the Food and Drug Administration. “No supplement seal guarantees the safety or effectiveness of the ingredients in the bottle,” says Sharon Akabas, Ph.D. of Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition.

Related: Why you should think twice about drugstore vitamins

When a supplement isn’t approved by the FDA, who is verifying that products are safe and effective? The truth is that out of 90,000 plus dietary supplements on the market, only a small fraction of them actually get tested. Manufacturers pay to get their products tested by organizations like U.S. Pharmacopeia, UL, consumerlab.com, and NSF International. However these certification organizations don’t hold products to the high standards set by the FDA. Each of them have their own criteria for which supplements and how they’ll test them. For example, USP purchases the supplements in stores to test up to six times a year. There are thousands of unapproved dietary supplements on shelves today. Next time you’re in the supplement aisle, make sure to look for the seal of approval from either the FDA or any of the secondary testers mentioned here.

Read more for the full report on who’s testing the safety of your supplements. 

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