August 2020

COVID-19 & Supply Chain Effects on Dietary Supplement Industry

The vast majority of raw ingredients used to make dietary supplements in the US come from China. COVID-19-related supply chain issues, coupled with US-China trade relation changes, have pushed many manufacturers to source more ingredients locally. Patients might conclude that this will make supplements safer, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Some manufacturers are capitalizing on the marketing opportunity that sourcing local ingredients offers. Consumers are likely to see “Made in the USA” and “Locally Sourced” on more and more products. Remind patients that, regardless of where a supplement or its ingredients come from, third-party verification is the only way to ensure that what is listed on the label is actually in the bottle. But not all third party certifications are equal. And just because a product has third-party certification doesn’t mean that it’s safe or effective. Additionally, the penalties currently used by the FTC to deter manufacturers from violating the “Made in the USA” labeling guidance have been criticized as being weak. But the FTC has recently proposed a Rule that would make the financial penalty for making false claims more severe.

In addition to supply chain issues, the FDA significantly reduced inspections of dietary supplement production facilities back in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Although inspections were reinitiated at the end of July 2020, virus data and local guidelines will continue to impact how inspections proceed. And some experts have warned that without inspections, manufacturers have the opportunity to take shortcuts in quality, increasing the potential for adulterated products on the market. Demand has skyrocketed for “immune boosting” products containing ingredients such as vitamin C and echinacea. Despite supply chain issues, sales for these products are on the rise – some experts are warning that this is a recipe for increased adulteration. Keep in mind, however, that industry representatives including the Natural Products Association (NPA) have made significant efforts to fill the regulatory gap with their own self-regulatory proposals – aiming to increase the number of companies that agree to meet certain industry specific quality standards.

Make sure patients feel comfortable discussing dietary supplement use so that you can guide them towards the appropriate products – verifying that the ingredients are safe and effective for their intended use, and that the specific product itself is verified by a third-party such as USP. For details on safety and effectiveness, take advantage of the tools in Natural Medicines, including our Commercial Products Database with links to information about specific ingredients.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.