June 2023

“Review Hijacking” and Melatonin Quality Concerns

Product quality remains an ongoing issue for the dietary supplement industry. Two recent reports are shining a spotlight on how consumers can easily be misled.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently took action against The Bountiful Company (Bountiful) for “review hijacking” to boost the ratings of its new products – this includes the supplement brands Nature’s Bounty and Sundown. According to the FTC, the company merged its new products on Amazon with other well-established products – making it appear that these new products had more ratings, reviews, and badges than they actually do. Bountiful has been fined $600,000 and barred from using similar tactics in the future. This is the first time the FTC has charged a company for this deceptive practice.

In addition to misleading reviews and ratings, mislabeled products are an ongoing issue. A recent study is making more waves for melatonin specifically. Twenty-two of 25 tested melatonin gummies contained melatonin in amounts that did not match the product label. The actual melatonin amounts ranged from 74% to 347% of the quantities listed. This is concerning, particularly as it relates to melatonin use in children. While melatonin is likely safe when used appropriately in adults, there are growing questions about long-term use and high doses in kids. Taking a mislabeled product as directed could expose kids to doses much higher than intended.

Remind patients that because dietary supplements aren’t regulated in the same way as conventional drugs, consumers and providers alike face challenges in identifying manufacturers and products they can trust. Advise patients to be cautious of consumer ratings and best-seller banners online. Encourage discussion about supplements they want to try, and check the Commercial Products section of our monographs to help guide them towards products certified by a reputable third-party.

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