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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Attorney General Lynch Discusses Department's Efforts to Protect Consumers From Unsafe Dietary Supplements

As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch recorded a video to talk about the department’s work protecting the health and safety of consumers from unsafe dietary supplements.

“At the Department of Justice, we are committed to working with our partners across the federal government to protect the health and safety of all Americans,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “Recently, we announced a nationwide operation targeting unlawful dietary supplements.  We are bringing civil and criminal cases against more than 100 makers and marketers of supplements who were violating federal law by misrepresenting ingredients; by making unsupported health claims; or even by lacing products with undeclared substances.”

The complete text of the Attorney General’s video message is below: 

“Hello.  As part of National Consumer Protection Week, I want to take a moment to talk to you about dietary supplements, which are used by millions of Americans every day.  What many Americans don’t know is that dietary supplements are not subject to testing by the Food and Drug Administration before they reach store shelves – meaning that every day, millions of Americans are ingesting substances whose safety and efficacy are not guaranteed. 

“Some of these supplements are simply a waste of money, promising results they can’t deliver or advertising ingredients that they don’t contain.  And too often, these supplements don’t just abuse consumer trust – they also endanger public health.  Some contain harmful ingredients, causing consumers to fall ill.  Others falsely claim to cure illness and disease, leading patients to use them as a substitute for the proven therapies they need.  But whether these supplements are deceptive or dangerous, the fact remains that too many companies are making a profit by misleading – and in some cases harming – American consumers.

“At the Department of Justice, we are committed to working with our partners across the federal government to protect the health and safety of all Americans.  Recently, we announced a nationwide operation targeting unlawful dietary supplements.  We are bringing civil and criminal cases against more than 100 makers and marketers of supplements who were violating federal law by misrepresenting ingredients; by making unsupported health claims; or even by lacing products with undeclared substances.

“In one case, for example, the Justice Department brought criminal charges against high-ranking executives at USPlabs, a company that sold workout and weight loss supplements.  As we alleged, they claimed that their products were made from natural plant extracts, when in fact, they were made from untested synthetic chemicals from China.  In several cases, consumers suffered severe liver damage.  And although the company was allegedly aware of the risks their product posed, they continued to sell it to consumers, compromising the health and well-being of thousands of Americans.

“The Justice Department is determined to hold bad actors in the dietary supplement industry accountable for their actions.  But consumers need to do their part to protect themselves.  I urge consumers to be cautious when choosing to take dietary supplements.  Visit the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission websites, where you can find useful information about dietary supplements.  Use tools developed by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, including a smartphone app, to help you make informed choices.  And above all, if you are considering taking a dietary supplement, talk to a doctor first.  Should you and your health care provider decide that dietary supplements are right for you, know that the Department of Justice is working tirelessly to ensure that the products you choose are safely manufactured, accurately labeled, and honestly marketed – because the American people deserve nothing less.” 

The full video of the Attorney General’s message is available at https://www.justice.gov/opa/video/national-consumer-protection-week.

For more information about the department’s Consumer Protection Branch, visit http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.

Topic(s): 
Consumer Protection
Press Release Number: 
16-268
Updated September 29, 2016