Ask the RD
Question: I recently purchased a bag of energy chews that claimed to promote healthy metabolism, control my appetite and support my immune system. As I read the package information, I found a disclaimer that said, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” Is this a case of false advertising?
Answer: Not really, but I can understand your confusion. While the FDA is responsible for regulating claims that food manufacturers make about a food’s nutrition content and its affect on disease, health or body function, dietary supplements are treated differently.
Back in 1994 the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was signed into law, making the product manufacturer responsible for ensuring the accuracy and truthfulness of any claim made on a dietary supplement label. Keep in mind that this law is specific to dietary supplements, which means the FDA monitors dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering conventional foods.
In the case of the energy chews, the FDA assumes the manufacturer has responsibly determined that the supplement is safe and that claims made are substantiated by adequate evidence to ensure they are not misleading. Dietary supplement manufacturers are not required to submit documentation proving their claims.
The FDA will take action against any unsafe dietary supplement, but only after the product reaches the market. As a result, you should be careful in deciding what to take and, more important, be cautious when selecting a supplement based on what is promised on the label. This doesn’t mean all claims are misleading, but supplement manufacturers have pretty loose regulations, and it may be in your best interest to do your own research. Keep in mind that there is no magic pill that will take the place of eating well and keeping fit through regular exercise.