The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released data from 2004 through September 2016 on adverse events related to dietary supplements, conventional foods, and cosmetics. To help explain what these adverse events are, and their limitations, in regards to dietary supplements, Nutraingredients-USA recently highlighted a few key takeaways:
Adverse events are negative reactions possibly involving the use of supplements reported by consumers, medical professionals, and companies. They can include anything from bad reactions to illnesses and deaths. The goal of the reporting system is to alert the FDA to potential problems with products.
In the words of Susan Mayne, PhD and Katherine Vierk, MPH, directors of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CAERS), “ [The] FDA has not necessarily determined that the events reported were actually caused by the product in question.” In other words, it could be that the adverse event was caused by a medication or other factor. Therefore, many people, including Mayne and Vierk, urge caution in concluding too much from the data, which the FDA hasn’t verified for accuracy.
The FDA also acknowledges that there are sometimes gaps in the data, including product names and outcomes, among other things.
For these reasons, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a dietary supplement trade group, advises that if consumers are looking for information about unsafe products, a better source for information would be the FDA’s consumer advisories, which do reflect the advice of the agency.