Fraudulent and criminal activity has continued to tarnish the reputation of countless dietary supplement manufacturers around the globe. As if it is common practice in itself, said manufacturers go out of their way to avoid stringent regulations by violating any number of rules. According to a recent Dateline NBC exposé, dry labbing practices have become the recent trend in transgressions committed by members of the dietary supplement industry. Fraudulent practices such as these have become a widespread problem and serve as a significant threat to the consumer population.
A dry lab is a laboratory in which computational or applied mathematical analyses are done on a computer-generated model to simulate a phenomenon in the physical realm. As they pertain to the dietary supplement industry, dry labs are tasked with analyzing the chemical composition and makeup of individual supplements. Subsequently, dry labs are commonly used to identify the ingredients of a particular supplement in order to determine whether or not thy have been adulterated in any way.
While dry labs were established as a safety mechanism in which researchers could determine the correct chemical composition of a product, their presence has been taken for granted amongst those in the dietary supplement industry. It has been brought to consumer attention that many labs may be practicing what is known as dry labbing. As the name suggests, dry labbing is a practice whereby research or analysis is claimed to be done, but in reality the conclusions are guessed at or taken from another source without actually conducting any self analysis.
A recent Dateline NBC exposé acknowledged that dry labbing may be a disturbing trend plaguing the dietary supplement industry. According to Frank Jaksch, CSO and co-founder of ChromaDex, Dateline’s investigative segment was an “important first step in addressing this problem,” and that dry labbing has been “going on for too long.” In an interview with NutraIngredients-USA that took place last year, Jaksch acknowledged that there may be more companies practicing dry labbing than people think.
Investigative reporter Chris Hansen, along with several undercover Dateline NBC colleagues, infiltrated Atlas Bioscience, based out of Tuscon, AZ. While undercover, Hansen’s team, along with the help of ChromaDex, tainted dry lab samples with arsenic, lead, sibutramine, and selenium dioxide. Hansen himself handed over an initial fabricated certificate of analysis for the samples he wanted Atlas to test. The results came back almost identical to the original certificate of analysis that Hansen turned in. Accordingly, no adulterants were detected.
These findings serve as a sobering reality into the field of dietary supplements. Subsequently, people may be unaware of adulterated products, simply because of dry labbing practices that neglect to protect consumers.
Contradictory to that of Jaksch’s opinion and the NBC investigative report, are the convictions of Steve Mister. As the president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), Mister adamantly challenges the assertion that dry labbing is widespread. “Over 150 million Americans are using dietary supplements each year and there is little evidence of widespread adulteration, contamination of ingredients, or serious adverse events,” he said.
The NBC program, which aired earlier this week, contained an investigative segment that exposed dry labbing to the consumer masses. As a result, the industry has been given a new opportunity to address this problem head on. Cara Welch, PhD, VP of scientific & regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA), told NutraIngredients-USA that it would be difficult to set up a qualification program that would prevent laboratories from dry labbing.
“It really is up to the manufacturers to go the extra step and audit not only their suppliers but also the testing facilities. Throw them a false sample every once in a while and see if they catch it. I think that is a good practice.”
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