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DoJ Going After Makers of Dietary Supplement (reuters.com) 161

schwit1 writes: Several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, have announced criminal and civil actions related to unlawful advertising and sale of dietary supplements. "Six executives with USPlabs LLC and a related company, S.K. Laboratories, face criminal charges related to the sale of unlawful dietary supplements. Four were arrested on Tuesday and two are expected to surrender, the Justice department said. The indictment says that USPlabs used a synthetic stimulant manufactured in China to make Jack3d and OxyElite Pro but told retailers that the supplements were made from plant extracts." The FTC is working on this as well, and their press release has more details. The DoJ's case involves "more than 100 makers and marketers" of these supplements. It's about time.
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DoJ Going After Makers of Dietary Supplement

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  • Consistent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @08:23PM (#50952121)

    You can lie all you want about what the ingredients do, but you can't get away with lying about what they are.

    • Not exactly. In 1951, the FTC went against the makers of Carter's Little Liver Pills [wikipedia.org] because they neither had any liver (or liver extract) in them nor worked on the liver. The company settled by agreeing to take the word "liver" out of the name.
      • Carter's Little Liver Pills ( actually bisacodyl ) were laxative pills sold as "medication" for headache, constipation, dyspepsia, and biliousness . Shows how important taking a good dump can be.

        If health came in a bottle , everyone would have it.
    • There is no way to tell what ingredients will do to an individual. I love peanuts, they are a cheap source or protein for me. They also cause massive allergic reactions and death for some people.

      So just make sure if something has peanuts in it that it's labeled.

    • You can't make medical claims, which the supplement people are generally careful not to do. At least on the container. And there's a lot of things you can write that look like medical claims but aren't quite.

  • Regulation please (Score:5, Informative)

    by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @08:24PM (#50952125)
    It is mind boggling how little rules or enforcement there is in the supplement and food industries. We need a strong, well funded regulatory agency that is not beholden to the industry to protect us from the inevitable corrupt businesses who are willing to poison us in their efforts to make a buck.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      This is America! People should be free to poison other people. Not to worry, the invisible hand of the market will fix it, or a guy with a gun.


      • Similar issues in Canada, where - so long as ingredients are mentioned in some book somewhere - you can make a natural remedy [www.cbc.ca] and have it on the shelves regardless of whether it really works or not.

      • Walnuts are poison because scientifically they have proven beneficial to certain heart conditions? That's right, Walnuts can't make a scientifically provable claim, because the claim is reserved for drugs. Nice strawman though.

    • by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @08:30PM (#50952159)

      The reason this "supplement" law got passed was reaction to total stupidity in the other direction -- the FDA was trying to assert power to require a prescription for vitamins.

      I kind of like Jerry Pournelle's proposal -- it should be perfectly legal to sell snake oil, as long as the bottle accurately describes the ingredients, and contains actual oil from actual snakes. And, under the Pournelle Rule, these bozos would be perfectly open to prosecution, since they didn't put whatever weird organic compounds some quack in China whomped up on their label.

      I absolutely do not want the FDA preventing me from getting vitamin D pills with more than 400 units of D.

      • by gruntled ( 107194 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @08:36PM (#50952179)

        Uh, no. The claim is anybody was trying to force consumers to get a prescription to purchase supplements is bogus. http://www.snopes.com/politics... [snopes.com]

        • To be clear: There is a lot of interest in forcing the supplement industry to document that their products are both safe and effective (like, you know, every other over the counter medication) but that's it.

          • There was an attempt a few years ago where I live to regulate all the "Nutritional Products" and "Supplements" companies, but there was a huge backlash and it never happened.

            I can't remember the arguments against proper testing and labeling but the minister involved backed down and it all went away.

            Someone was even on the radio defending homeopathic remedies, and I remember her stating something along the lines that the manufacturers would go out of business if they were forced into having independent tes

        • I generally trust Snopes, but I think I'll go with my actual memory of the time over Snopes on this one. (I'm probably way older than most of the people here.) The story they're debunking is some goofy rumor about the Obama administration; this was back in the 80s or 90s, as I recall.

          I don't do all the wacky stuff. Having reached a certain age, B12 supplements are a good idea. I'm also prescribed stupid amounts of time-release niacin for cholesterol control which I'd actually prefer not to take; hot flash

          • Actually, Snopes is notorious for using Strawmen for their "debunking". They frame the question, and use one of the more ridiculous examples, rather than the actual one people want to see. I've Caught them enough times to find the whole site more or less untrustworthy as a reference.

            • Yeah... Like the silly "Obama's doing it" rumor they rightly debunked, leaving the FDA rule proposal from the previous century un-remarked-on.

              Snopes does have their biases, granted. They seem more likely to rigorously "put to the question" things that go against their biases than those that agree with them. But I haven't caught them in a lie. If they say they've researched something, my impression is that they have researched what they said they researched, and got the answers they say they got. An hones

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        The problem with that rule is that it presumes people are reasonable -- as in still in possession of their reason.

        I have a young relative who is an anti-vaxxer. She's not stupid; she's paranoid -- about corporations and authority figures. It's the left-wing version of the right wing's hysterical climate denialism. Unfortunately she's not only nutty; she's also extremely charismatic. She's set herself up as a "certified" alternative health coach and she's recently started spreading anti-chemotherapy prop

        • although I think I've dissuaded her not to do that.

          You may want to rethink that strategy and instead dissuade he from doing it, or convince her not to do it. When you combine them, you are encouraging her to do it.

          Double negatives are fun :)

          As far as Vitamin D, some people need those pills. If you don't naturally produce vitamin D (rickets and other diseases), you need large doses to maintain the levels to remain healthy. Who wants to take 10 400 unit pills to maintain proper levels of vitamin D?

    • And how do you expect to do that? The US goverment in its entirty is beholden to industry, and have shown its willingless to say anythign about food to increase profits.
      • If that was the case, then the FDA wouldn't have announced an incoming nationwide trans fat ban.

        Also if that was the case, then there would be FDA approval for certain surgical procedures that you can't get done here.

        Take for example, I myself need corneal cross-linking to halt the progression keratoconus, which has been done safely in other countries for about 17 years now. A company called Avedro is lobbying really hard to get it approved so that they can start selling the equipment and drugs required to

        • Take for example, I myself need corneal cross-linking to halt the progression keratoconus, which has been done safely in other countries for about 17 years now. A company called Avedro is lobbying really hard to get it approved so that they can start selling the equipment and drugs required to perform the procedure, but the FDA has continually denied it every year, instead opting to just wait until you go all out blind and then get a corneal transplant as their current preferred treatment option.

          That would

    • Quirkly little story, actually. Aside from the usual 'regulators toothless, undermanned, scammers multiply and scurry like cockroaches' issue, which is the case generally; "supplements" are a weird little world of their own.

      For I-know-not-what cultural or historical reasons, Utah is ground zero for the American 'dietary supplement' industry(since many of these companies also use multilevel marketing arrangments; the joke is that 'MLM' stands for 'mormons losing money'). Senator Orrin Hatch obliged his ho
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Ephedra didn't kill that many people, and the ones it did kill went way beyond any reasonable dose for months. Had they exceeded the dose of acetaminophen by the same amount, they would have been dead in a couple weeks.

        I have to wonder, if the labeling on the bottle hadn't had to be so circumspect in order to avoid the FDA, perhaps the users would have been more careful how much they took.

    • It's already illegal to poison people.

      Why would you forbid me to buy rose hips or dandelion essence or whatever? Ah, you wouldn't forbid. You would regulate to the point that only Johnson & Johnson could possibly sell the stuff.

      You'd use this lying about ingredients to impose the strict regulations you wanted all along, and put all supplement makers out of business.

      Holy crap are we trading freedom for safety.

      • Stop putting your disgusting words in my mouth!

        Ideally, I'd like a strong regulatory agency that inspects manufacturing facilities, lab tests products, and enforces truth in labeling. I'd prefer just about anything to be legal, as long as it is as labeled.

        It is crazy, but right now most food and supplements are completely uninspected. It could be anything in there, grocery store wide.
        • That is not true about the completely uninspected thing. They can come anytime they want with the authority of God's nephews. I'm sure statistics can be had that show that a Federal employee has not inspected the majority of sites in a given year. But believe me, you live in fear of the FDA if you're in the industry. Well, except I guess, these guys. I bet they got the fear now.

          And everything you listed; inspect, test, enforce; I am in complete agreement with. That is exactly what the FDA is supposed to be

    • There's quite a bit of regulation on food, animal feed, and drugs for both. Unfortunately there was a large campaign to free the supplement market from having to comply with most of those regulations. It is why homeopathy can claim to cure shot when it does nothing. There is an old video from the campaign that basically says the FDA is going to arrest you for taking vitamins, complete with cinematic production quality and a celebrity so you know you can trust them.

      https://duckduckgo.com/?q=mel+... [duckduckgo.com]

      The F
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They're sort the opposite of a snake oil salesman. They said they were selling (useless) plant extracts but were actually selling a potent synthetic stimulant.

  • What about Mannatech [youtube.com]?

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @08:54PM (#50952247) Homepage
    All of this came from two morons that believed in Magic. Senator Hatch (R) and Harkins (D) were convinced that the FDA were holding back nutritional supplements simply because they science said they couldn't work. So they carved out an exception allowing vague health claims to be made without the FDA slamming them down.

    This re-created the snake oil industry that the FDA had killed, with but minor regulations preventing extreme claims - and also made it difficult for the FDA to prosecute if the company did make those claims.

    Hatch and Harkin killed more Americans than most Senators, and helped enrich a whole generation of scamsters.

    • They must have been friends of that snake-oil salesman Dr. Oz.
    • by rwyoder ( 759998 )

      Yes, the Hatch essentially turned the regulations upside down;
      Previously, you could only use ingredients that had been proven safe.
      Afterward, you could use any ingredient you wanted...until it was proven dangerous.

      • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

        Given that proving something safe can only be done by big corporations, and will only be done if they stand to make a return on investment.... fuck that philosophy.

  • Yet they still won't enforce the labeling of GMO products. How in the world is a forward looking person to seek out genetically altered produce if it isn't identified as such? Sure, we can avoid things labeled as "organic", but from what I understand that is no guarantee that the product has not actually been improved by science. One can not benefit from science if one is not made aware that science has provided a alternative to nature. We really need much better truth in labeling laws in the US.

  • Political nonsense comments aside, this reminds me of when a few companies were prosecuted for claiming the garments they sold contained goose down, when they actually contained feathers. The official said it would be okay if the jackets were be filled with 100% horse feathers as long as that was what the label said.
  • Further Reading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mewsenews ( 251487 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @09:25PM (#50952427) Homepage
    I was an amateur boxer for a few years with no notable accomplishments. One thing I did notice was that supplement companies are COMPLETELY FULL OF SHIT. There is a particularly eye-opening documentary about steroids called "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" where the director creates his own supplement using unknown ingredients and gives it an obscene markup, and they don't even have to list their ingredients. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    • by rwyoder ( 759998 )

      Since I have no mod points today to give you, I'll just say "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" is indeed an *excellent* film that presents a refreshingly non-hysterical look at doping and supplements in athletics.

    • Gotta love a documentary that takes a good swipe at Arnold Schwarzenegger too for being a bad roll model that claimed to support healthy living but did every steroid and HGH ever made.

  • They actually put something in these pills that might have some effect? Isn't that sort of rare? What if the chinese stuff actually works for once?
    • It's actually not uncommon: The homeopathy guys are the ones who got to great lengths to avoid active ingredients; but the 'herbal supplements' industry learned some time ago that customer satisfaction is improved if the customer gets to bask in how 'natural' and 'wholistic' the remedy is(and skip tedious prescription paperwork); but it also actually does something useful because of 'impurities' that...coincidentally...tend to be dubiously sourced drugs that actually have the effect that the plant matter is
  • But unlike drugs the maker doesnt have to prove saftey nor effectiveness in advance.
  • As long as the FDA doesn't mess with the dick pills that I buy at the gas station. I like that they're right by the counter with the 5-hour energy, slim jims and cherry-flavored Philly blunts. Makes for efficient one-stop shopping.

  • If you want to profit with products that kill people, you had best do it in a different market.

    Take Ford. By their own admission, they have killed over 125 (or is it 150 or 200 or ???) people with a bad ignition switch. It's called mass murder. Except that you will never hear that phrase on TV or in the press. Why? Just notice how many car commercials there are on TV and in the press. No connection at all, just ask any ethical journalist. You'll find one riding a unicorn.

    You know what happened to Ford? No

  • What a brave, resourceful, federal system we have. No tailgating, swipe your badge.
  • Is the entire weight loss supplement market really just an attempt to re-create the magic of the good old days of Dexedrine for weight loss? Just like "space" and all the synthetic fake marijuana is an attempt to get around legal prohibition of marijuana?

    I wonder if we'd be better off just selling Dexedrine for weight loss. This way people would at least be taking a well-known substance with well-known risks and more or less predictable results, versus god knows what ("now with Melamine!") synthetics from

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.