By Ginger Vieira
If you’re scouring the internet for the cheapest deals on your daily vitamins, you many want to take a closer look at where your products are really coming from… and what’s really in them. In this interview, Gary Collins – a retired investigative agent for the FDA – tells FatBurningMan’s Abel James about the super shady side of the supplement industry.
Yup, even the vitamins you bought on Amazon from what appeared to be the brand of the product may actually be filled with a lot of … well … junk … because they weren’t actually made by the company on the sticker.
What does an investigative agent for the FDA really do?
“It’s working with all the different agencies investigation crimes. It involves search warrants and affidavits just like any other type of investigation – only we’re investigating case of counterfeit drugs, food, supplements, scam companies,” explains Collins.
You’re probably thinking, “There’s no way the vitamins I bought from a reputable company, like Vitacost, are a scam! But Vitacost isn’t regulating their products and neither is the FDA,
Collins explains that because there is actually so little regulation for supplements, dermatological products and vitamins, there could be just about anything in your facial cream or vitamin.
“We’re going after the guy who’s selling you a cream that actually has an active drug ingredients when it’s not suppose to. Or the online Viagra that has too much active ingredient or is nothing but sawdust,” says Collins.
Even Centrum vitamins bought from the wrong place (even Walmart and Amazon) could actually be complete garbage with a great sticker.
“One time, I found a case of counterfeited Campbell’s Soup, and I’ve found counterfeit catsup, too. Centrum vitamins have been counterfeited in China for years,” explains Collins. “Counterfeit supplements can be worthless, or dangerous, or both. Some supplements are doped to get results, but they don’t always dope the entire line. They’ll drop in an active drop so some random customer will get a bottle and feel great, but the next time they purchase it, there will be no effects at all. Oops, and it’s too late for that 30-day money back guarantee!”
But shutting them down isn’t easy.
“These scam artists make it almost impossible for us to shut them down. They put up a complicated web of shells and fronts and an endless succession of new companies. If you shut one down, they pop up in a new name with the same product the next day.”
Avoiding the Scams
Collins shares a few tips for avoiding the junk and garbage of supplements and vitamins:
- “Don’t go to Walmart (or whatever big box store) and buy whichever bottle is 50% off. Do that and you’re rolling the dice, and you’ll probably end up causing more harm than good.”
- “Use common sense. If it sounds too good to be true (Lose 100 pounds eating anything you want! For example.), then it probably is.”
- “If it’s really cheap, it’s probably garbage.”
- “Never buy from multi-level marketing companies. If a product is good, why would you need everyone in your family and neighborhood to sell it in order to buy it? It makes no sense. In my many years of experience, I have yet to find a good MLM company product.”
- “NEVER buy supplements off of Ebay. You really do not know what you’re getting.
- “Don’t buy on Amazon, unless you’re buying directly from the source. When you go to a product page on Amazon, there’s a little box that tells you the seller. Don’t just look at that box, actually click on it. That will take you to the seller’s page. If the link you follow goes to a different company than what’s ‘listed’ as the seller, don’t buy the supplement. It’s a scam.”
- “Stay away from supplements that are owned by big pharmaceutical or personal care companies. Sometimes a small company puts out a great product, then they’re bought by big business and the formulas all change.”
Getting Quality Supplements
Collins offers the following wisdom on finding authentic products worth your money:
- “Go to your small, local health food store. They employees running the vitamin and supplement section are usually well-trained and have experience in the area. Ask them which brand supplement is best for whatever you’re trying to address. Make sure they know you’re serious and you don’t want any BS.”
- “Go to an expert for advice or to order your supplements. Find someone who’s not a supplement store to order your supplements from, but make sure they’re well-trusted and have a solid background in wellness.”
- “Make sure the supplement you buy is lab tested. If it’s not, then anything could be in there and they could make any claim they want.”
- “Ask people who are on it. That’s really the best way to find something good – just be wary if someone has fantastic results on a cheap-o supplement. Sham companies will sometimes lace just a few of each batch with performance-enhancing drugs to amp up the hype over this “miracle” product.”
- “Go for small brands that have been around a while. Like Megafoods is a good example. This means they have some credibility. Do your homework, it’s your body we’re talking about!”