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Majority of Recalled Dietary Supplements Contain Banned Ingredients

Update Date: Oct 21, 2014 04:03 PM EDT

According to a new study, the majority of dietary supplements that get recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still contain banned ingredients at least six months after the recall date. These adulterated dietary supplements could potentially lead to adverse side effects.

For this study, the research team headed by Pieter A. Cohen, M.D., from Harvard Medical School set out to determine whether or not banned ingredients could still be found in recalled dietary supplements that become available for purchase at least six months post recall date. They examined 274 dietary supplements that were recalled by the FDA from January 2009 to December 2012. 27 products fulfilled the study's criteria.

The researchers found that 18 out of the 27 recalled supplements, or 66.7 percent, could still be bought even though they contained one or more banned ingredient. In 85 percent of sports supplements, 67 percent of weight loss supplements and 20 percent of sexual enhancement supplements that had all been recalled at some point, the researchers were able to find one or more pharmaceutical adulterant. In the group of supplements made in the U.S., 13 out of 20 of them, or 65 percent, still contained the banned ingredients.

The FDA will issue class I drug recalls for products that have a high likelihood of causing serious health conditions or death. Class I drug recalls have been initiated to remove dietary supplements that are made with pharmaceutical ingredients of the shelves. However, regulation of these supplements after the recalls has been unclear until this study.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to determine if adulterants remain in supplements sold after FDA recalls," the authors wrote according to the press release. "Action by the FDA has not been completely effective in eliminating all potentially dangerous adulterated supplements from the U.S. marketplace. More aggressive enforcement of the law, changes to the law to increase the FDA's enforcement powers, or both will be required if sales of these products are to be prevented in the future."

The study was published in JAMA.

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