by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Supplements

May 22 2019

Annals of marketing: dairy-based functional drinks in Asia

A notice from FoodNavigator-Asia got my attention: Coca-Cola is partnering with the New Zealand dairy company Fonterra to produce “Nutriboost” products for Southeast Asia.

What are these?

  • Nutriboost Kids is targeted at children above three years of age, with each of its products being fortified with different occasion-based vitamins and minerals:…Morning Growth (fortified with vitamins for growth), Playtime (designed for stronger immunity) and Good Night (fortified with DHA for brain development).
  • Nutriboost To-Go is an energy-providing breakfast range enriched with oats and fibre.
  • Nutriboost Beauty is fortified with fitness and beauty-associated minerals like collagen and zinc.

Given the lack of evidence for significant nutritional benefits of any of these things, and the high prevalence of lactose intolerance among Asian populations, why this partnership?

  • Vietnam is the third largest dairy market in the ASEAN region.
  • To grow [sales] to 40 million or 50 million cases within the next five years.
  • Coca-Cola’s strategy is to evolve away from drinks with high sugar content.

The article doesn’t say how much money is going into this partnership, but both companies must think there is a big market for such products.

I’m not a fan of “functional” foods, alas.

Real food, anyone?

Apr 25 2019

25 years of DSHEA: NutraIngredient-USA’s appraisal has posted a set of articles celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), which effectively deregulated the supplement industry.  The articles that follow are from the perspective of that industry.

Personally, I’m not a fan of DSHEA, and view deregulation of dietary supplements as a mistake for the industry as well as for the public.  Strong regulation inspires trust.  Weak regulation encourages distrust of supplement products and the entire industry.  When I see a Supplement Facts label, I have no reason to trust that the label reflects the contents of the package.  Until supplements are subjected to the same level of regulation as food products, caveat emptor.

Special Edition: DSHEA at 25

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 created the framework for the modern supplement industry. In 1994, the industry was worth $4 bn. Now it is estimated to be worth over $40 bn.

In this special edition we will talk to some of the industry legends who helped to craft the law, we’ll learn about NPQAA, we’ll hear from the head of the FDA’s Office of Dietary Supplement Programs on the need to modernize the law, get the views of some of the industry association leaders, and look to the future.


Feb 21 2019

The FDA is taking on the supplement industry?

I thought the FDA had decided long ago that dietary supplements were untouchable, given the Courts’ interpretation of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.  DSHEA essentially deregulated dietary supplements and blocked the FDA from doing much about them unless it could prove substantial harm.

Whenever the FDA tried to intervene, supplement companies took the agency to court on First Amendment grounds, and won most of the time.  So the FDA appeared to have given up.

But here we have FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announcing new steps to take back some oversight of this industry.

These steps include communicating to the public as soon as possible when there is a concern about a dietary supplement on the market, ensuring that our regulatory framework is flexible enough to adequately evaluate product safety while also promoting innovation, continuing to work closely with our industry partners, developing new enforcement strategies and continuing to engage in a public dialogue to get valuable feedback from dietary supplement stakeholders.

The FDA issued a press release to announce 12 warning letters and 5 online advisory letters to companies illegally selling more than 58 misbranded products claimed to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease.  The demographic change to an aging population:

has been accompanied by a growth in the number of marketers who prey on this population, pitching products that make unproven claims that they can prevent, treat, delay, or even cure Alzheimer’s disease.  These purported miracle cures are sold primarily on the Internet. They are often, though not always, falsely labeled as dietary supplements. Regardless of their form, these products fly in the face of true science. What these companies are selling is the false hope that there is an effective treatment or cure.

Commissioner Gottlieb also sent out a chain of Twitter announcements explaining what this is about.

Cheers to the FDA for this one.  And now get busy on the rest of the bad apples in this barrel.

Jan 9 2019

Supplements to improve memory: if only

The Government Accountability Office has just published a report on memory supplements.

Available data indicate that memory supplements constitute a small segment of the overall dietary supplement market, but their sales nearly doubled in value from 2006 to 2015, increasing from $353 million to $643 million. Consumers searching to prevent or treat age-related memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease, have increasingly turned to dietary supplements for help.

What did the GAO do?

This report examines the extent to which selected memory supplements contained: (1) their stated ingredients at the quantities stated on their labels and specific adulterants, and (2) certain contaminants.

Uh oh.  Never mind whether memory supplements do any good (a dubious claim).  They don’t even contain what they claim to contain:

  • One product, marketed as Ginkgo biloba, did not contain that ingredient. Instead it contained an unknown substitute; as such the safety of the product is unknown.
  • The second product was marketed as a supplement that included Ginkgo biloba. It also contained an unknown substitute, instead of Ginkgo biloba.
  • The third product, marketed as a fish oil supplement, contained the stated ingredients.

Supplement products, you will recall, are essentially unregulated, by Congressional fiat (see the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994).

Since none of these supplements has been shown to improve memory, what’s in them only matters if it causes safety problems.  Fortunately, the study found contaminants to be a low levels.

When it comes to dietary supplements, caveat emptor.

Nov 29 2018

NutraIngredients-USA on “Personalized Nutrition”

The food industry is intensely interested in personalized nutrition because it can create and sell products appeared to be aimed directly at individual lifestyles and preferences.

This approach is aimed much more at marketing than it is about public health.

With that said, take a look at how the food industry is using this idea.

Special Edition: Personalized Nutrition

The future is personal, but the revolution is already taking place around us. Innovative science is combining with entrepreneurial endeavor to bring personalized nutrition to our fingertips.

Personalized nutrition is breaking down the silos and bringing together experts in genetics and genomic profiling, microbiology, nutrition and diet, mobile technology, big data, healthcare and more.

In this special edition we talk to the pioneers and experts in this sector, the scientists and the emerging brands, and the tech developers bringing the personalized nutrition future to the present day.

Aug 6 2018

What’s in dietary supplements? NutraIngredients on transparency

NutraIngredients is another one of those industry newsletters I read every day.  Here is its collection of articles—a special edition—on supplements.  In the United States, supplement ingredients and labels are governed by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which effectively deregulated the products leaving the public to take the products on trust, sometimes justifiably, but sometimes not.

Special Edition: Transparency in Dietary Supplements

Issues concerning adulteration, identity and others swirl around the dietary supplement industry.  In this special edition, NutraIngredients-USA looks at the opportunities for proactively dealing with these questions in an effort to boost transparency and retain consumers’ trust.

Mar 26 2018

Selling dietary supplements in Latin America

This comes from one of those daily food-industry newsletters I subscribe to, in this case  It occasionally focuses on regions and I thought this collection of articles was of interest.  Do Latin Americans need dietary supplements?  Just asking.

Welcome to NutraIngredients’ first quarterly supplement focusing on the Latin American dietary supplements and functional food markets. In this edition, we look at the changing regulatory landscapes across the region, including a deep dive into how Brazil is creating a distinct category for supplements. We’ll also look at a supplement start-up and opportunities for omega-3s in LATAM.

Dec 26 2017

Rattlesnake pills? Really? Contaminated with Salmonella?

I am indebted to food safety lawyer Bill Marler for enlightening me about these pills in the first place, and their contamination with Salmonella.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have linked one  person’s Salmonella Oranienburg infection to taking rattlesnake pills. Rattlesnake pills are often marketed as remedies for various conditions, such as cancer and HIV infection. These pills contain dehydrated rattlesnake meat ground into a powder and put into pill form. CDC recommends that you talk to your health care provider if you are considering taking rattlesnake pills, especially if you are in a group more likely to get a severe Salmonella infection.

Can’t wait to hear what your health care provider says about these.