Trust, But Verify

How can you know that when you put a gallon of gasoline in your car that you are really getting as much as you are paying for? There is a division of your state government that randomly checks the pumps and metering. The station operator knows this, so they check themselves periodically so as to avoid any embarrassment or fines.

How do you know that when you buy an herbal supplement that what is in the capsules, tablets, or liquids is really what is claimed on the label? Hmmmm. The State of New York recently came down very hard on GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart for having products on sale that contained little to none of the claimed contents. If your state is not now spot checking supplement sellers I would be surprised. If your seller is not attempting to verify what they are selling, I would likewise be surprised. Nobody wants to be caught in fraud, and the culprits in the New York cases can claim ignorance of the problem, but now that the cat is out of the bag nobody else can. Now everyone that sells supplements knows that fraud is being committed by the makers of the supplement pills. To not attempt to verify the producers now would be aiding in their fraud.

In the meantime, also in the New York Times, they have provided us with information on how to make sure that your supplements are good ones now…

…you can look for products that receive a seal of approval from the United States Pharmacopeia, an independent, nonprofit organization of scientists that sets high standards for medicine, food ingredients and dietary supplements. The United States Pharmacopeia has a voluntary program through which supplement companies can have their products and facilities tested and reviewed.


Products that have been checked by this organization are allowed to bear this seal of approval. A list of approved supplement brands can be found at the organization’s website. Here is the link.

Another nonprofit group that independently certifies some supplements and their ingredients is NSF International. The group certifies such supplements as fish oil and multivitamins.


This is the official seal of the NSF certification. This organization has a periodic newsletter that is available. If you sign up for the newsletter they send you information like this, for example…

The problem with supplements, of course, is that where our Federal Government has chosen to insert itself into this market, it has done so on the side of less verification and testing and a ‘freer market’. Their worry is that you might not be able to get the supplements you crave if they are subjected to costly proof that they are what they claim to be. I think that your Senate is thinking that if you want to buy a placebo, then it can really contain anything that isn’t deadly, and you will get all of the benefit from what it says on the label anyway. If you feel like that is true, I am sure you quit reading this article around the end of the second sentence.

However, if you are like me, and you expect that when you select the premium gasoline nozzle at the station, and you expect premium gasoline to be dispensed from it, then you know that you have no way of checking it out. You and I expect our government to keep the seller’s feet to the fire. It would be nice if our government kept these manufacturers honest, but since they aren’t, we can do so ourselves. We must only buy supplements that have subjected their products to one of these organizations, or other organizations that do a similar service. Trust–but verify!

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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