Intake: Claims You Can Swallow?

Outside magazine, August 1995

Intake: Claims You Can Swallow?
By Mark Jannot

Perhaps you missed it in the international headlines about war and peace elsewhere, but a détente of sorts has been negotiated between the dietary supplement industry and the Food and Drug Administration, which have been at odds for about 25 years. Jimmy Carter was not involved.

Last fall, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which essentially gives government validation to vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and other supplements. The law allows manufacturers to make claims on their labels--"bee pollen boosts stamina," for example--without the rigorous premarket approval process that the FDA usually requires. They just have to include this disclaimer: "This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

The upshot for the consumer? Read labels with new vigilance, because the disclaimer is just that and is likely to liberalize empty label promises as much as it makes things easier for legitimate products. The Marlboro Man, after all, has only gotten healthier looking over the years.

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