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Food Supplements: moving from the ‘Wild West’ towards quality and compliance

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A growing body of scientific research suggests that supplementing our diets with vitamins, minerals, botanicals, or fatty acids can have positive effects on various aspects of health - from sports performance and recovery to cardiovascular fitness, obesity, memory and neurological disorders. This trend is driving a boom in the supplements industry, but recent scrutiny has also called into question the safety and effectiveness of many supplements. These include discrepancies between advertised and actual concentrations of active ingredients, as well as the presence of contaminants and toxic compounds in some products.

Given the widespread availability of supplements in Europe and the USA through shops and online retailers, combined with the significant safety and quality concerns, this whitepaper explores shortcomings in US and EU regulations. It emphasises the crucial role of Proficiency Testing (PT) in supporting a rigorous and transparent testing programme that enables reputable brands to differentiate themselves from lower quality competitors. Drawing on insights from the LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing team, we examine the breadth and diversity of quality markers and chemical contaminants present in supplements, and consider the significant technical challenges faced by manufacturers.