Supply chain risk is inherent in the supplement industry due to the volume of transactions, global reach, and complexity of the roles involved. Add to this risk, the shortages, and disruptions driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, and you have the perfect storm for fraud.
Increased Supply Chain Risk
According to Europol, a recent EU investigation resulted in the seizure of multiple packages with counterfeit food supplements. The shipments came from Brazil, China, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom with listings as confectionery, specific supplements, or generically-named dietary supplements.
Manufacturers have ramped up production and are working around the clock to quickly meet the growing demand for supplements during the crisis. If even one of the many raw materials, ingredients, or packaging items supplied drops in quality or isn't what it seems, the consequences can be severe.
It's crucial for supplement makers and brand owners to understand that temporary shifts in U.S. regulatory policy due to the pandemic are not a relaxation of compliance requirements. As FDA warning letters continue to mount, it's more crucial than ever for brand owners to hold suppliers and co-manufacturers accountable for meeting the FDA food safety standards and documentation requirements.
Unsubstantiated Supplement Claims
To protect the hard-won credibility gained by the supplement industry in recent years, the four leading dietary supplement trade associations in the U.S. released a warning against bad actors who might try to profit from this crisis fraudulently.
"The U.S. dietary supplement industry is aware of the growing concern regarding the novel coronavirus and of the public's desire to protect itself against the virus," the press release explains. "However, we are concerned that some marketers of dietary supplements or other products may be promoting them with claims of prevention or treatment of coronavirus."
The press release points out that while studies support the use of some dietary supplements for immune system health, there isn't any published clinical research that demonstrates there's any nutritional supplement on the market that can prevent or treat COVID-19. Even if research existed, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 prevents "marketers of dietary supplements in the United States from promoting any dietary supplement product that makes disease prevention or treatment claims."
The statement offers practical advice for dietary supplement marketers, retailers, and consumers during COVID-19:
Marketers and retailers of dietary supplements should refuse to stock or sell any supplements presented as treating, curing, or preventing coronavirus.
Marketers and retailers should refrain from promoting any dietary supplement as a cure, treatment, or coronavirus prevention.
Consumers should avoid any product claiming to treat, cure, or prevent coronavirus and report such products to the Food and Drug Administration.
Anyone who thinks they might have coronavirus or has come in contact with COVID-19 should call a healthcare professional immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more information on coronavirus and the best actions to take if you suspect you're ill.
Unfortunately, crises such as the current global health threat draw criminals hoping to profit from consumer fears and looser restrictions. Supplement companies need to carefully select language when marketing or selling supplements, ensuring all claims are substantiated. It's also imperative to increase supply chain visibility and manage risk.
TraceGains helps supplement companies substantiate label claims and automate compliance and quality assurance processes so they can focus on business growth. Want to learn more? Request a demo today.