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Vitamin Or Food? FDA Wants To Draw The Line

Do you really know what's in dietary supplements? New legislation could tighten regulations on what is food and what is supplement.

energy drinks

Photo: Tambako The Jaguar (flickr)

Energy drinks are one item being classified as either supplement or food product.

The FDA is drawing lines between what is food and what is supplement, and it could mean stronger restrictions for vitamin makers.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin would require all supplements to be registered with the FDA and list any hazards associated with its ingredients.

Vitamin makers are concerned the FDA’s proposed guidelines could be costly and rigorous; they argue consumers want agency over their health.

Durbin disagrees, stating he takes fish oil supplements himself — the real fight is between the blurry line between supplements and food.

Regulation differs depending on how an item is classified — as food or as supplement. Supplements aren’t reviewed by the FDA; products sold as food are. For instance, energy drinks could be classified as either.

The goal of the legislation is to inform consumers of products that could have “adverse effects,” but president and CEO of the Council of Responsible Nutrition Steve Mister disagrees.

“Supplements have an incredible margin of safety and very few adverse events when compared to over-the-counter drugs,” Mister says.

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Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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