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USA Today Features Article on Contaminated Sports Nutrition Products

By Rebecca Wright | December 6, 2007

USA Today ran an article on December 5th about a report claiming to find steroids and banned stimulants in a variety of sports nutrition products.

The report was released by Informed Choice, a Boston, MA, testing program. As part of the research, 58 supplement samples were purchased from popular retail outlets and Internet sites in the U.S. and sent to HFL, a U.K.-based lab, for analysis using its ISO 17025 accredited banned substance screen for supplements. The screen is used to detect the presence of low levels of steroid and stimulant contaminants that are considered prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in a range of supplement formulations. According to the results, nearly one-quarter of the samples analyzed showed the presence of low levels of steroid and/or stimulant contamination that were not declared on the label.

Researchers in this study believe that after several years of initial research highlighting the issue of supplements and contamination, that the presence of steroids and banned stimulants in products is still very much a problem. The study authors also said, "It is clear that not all supplement manufacturers follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs)—though GMP regulations do not specifically address banned substance screening, so many manufacturers who do follow GMPs are still prone contamination issues—and that the necessary controls are not always implemented to ensure the safety of athletes and the general public who use supplement products." The researchers further noted that banned substance screening of products is an essential part of the quality control process and athletes need to be aware of the ongoing risks associated with using products made by manufacturers who do not regularly screen products for these contaminants.

In response to this report, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a leading trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, issued the following statement.

Statement by Steven M. Mister, President and CEO:

“Sports nutrition supplements are legitimate and beneficial products and are particularly important to athletes. If this report is accurate, these results should concern the supplement industry and its consumers because it is illegal for supplement products to contain performance-enhancing steroids. Likewise, it is illegal for supplements to have undeclared ingredients—what’s in the bottle, should be disclosed on the label. Under the law, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to take adulterated products that ignore the law off the shelf.

"We strongly urge Informed-Choice to immediately release the names of the brands/products that allegedly failed the tests, as well as the brands/products which passed.  If consumers’ safety, health and wellness are the primary concerns for this organization, then this is the right thing to do. Consumers, as well as the U.S. Agency that regulates dietary supplements—FDA—need to know if there are drug products masquerading as supplements on the market—whether by accident or through criminal activity. Consumers—and FDA— further deserve to know that there are reputable companies in the supplement industry that have consumers’ best interests at heart and go to great lengths to ensure their products are contamination-free.

"Additionally, we call on Informed-Choice to also release the full study, including the methods used for testing, whether those methods were validated for supplements and the alleged levels of contamination, to determine if the report is accurate.

"Issuing a report that makes consumers wary of all supplements, without providing them with the information they need to make educated decisions about the supplements they take, does a disservice to consumers. Informed-Choice should give consumers just that—informed choices.”

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