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Dietary supplements are a big business in the United States. Consumers spend in the neighborhood of $25 billion dollars per year on pills, capsules, powders, and liquids that promise a host of medical benefits. Despite this booming market, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does very little to regulate the supplement industry.

It’s no secret that the FDA has, at times, failed to protect people from tainted food and drug products. Earlier this week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) fired another salvo at the beleaguered agency when it issued a report criticizing the FDA for not doing enough to ensure the safety of dietary supplements. Among the concerns cited in the report were the lack of agency oversight of supplement companies and the likelihood of a product reaching the market before its dangerous properties are discovered.

The GAO report offers a number of recommendations that should mitigate the risks to consumers. The report suggests that the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the commissioner of the FDA to seek greater authority to police supplement companies. The GAO also recommends that the FDA clarify the often-murky distinction between dietary supplements and food products that contain supplemental ingredients. Another option available to the FDA is a redoubled effort to educate consumers about dietary supplements.

Dietary supplements play key roles in many people’s lives. It is important that the integrity of those products is protected with stringent government agency oversight. If you or someone you love experiences an adverse reaction from a dietary supplement, be sure to report the incident to the FDA.

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