Is It Safe To Buy Supplements Online?
“I urge you, NEVER buy supplements on Amazon or eBay,” says Gary Collins, a former Special Agent of the US Food and Drug Administration in his written letter featured in The Simple Life Now. Numerous online marketplace sites have been recently making headlines due to surges in imitation merchants, counterfeits, and elaborate fake review scams.
“It seems as though this giant got too big for its britches and cannot keep these under control,” says Dr. Jill Carnahan, a functional medicine expert, and consultant, in her article: The Fake Supplement Issue No one is Talking about-Beware of Amazon. A 2017 article published by Forbes also confirms this when journalists discovered that 25% of marketplace sites online, especially Amazon, are Chinese knockoffs.
To make things worse, an article featured on the official website of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mentioned that the FDA doesn’t even have the authority to review dietary supplement products for effectiveness and safety before they are marketed. So, is it safe to purchase supplements online? The short answer is “no”, and here’s why.
Why Is It Not Safe to Buy Supplements Online?
Fake and Counterfeit Supplements
Super Green Tonik explained that the primary reason why it is not advised to buy supplements online is that a vast majority of them may be fake goods. When you take a look at eBay and Amazon, for instance, you might think that you’re looking at authentic supplement brands, but you are not.
The accounts on both of these sites will be individuals attempting to sell counterfeit supplements through a counterweight brand. A customer might see a brand that they recognize–the logo, supplements, and information might look identical to the brand they’re thinking of–but it’s actually fake.
A genuine brand’s website will not say they are selling on eBay or Amazon. If they are, this could be a group of people in countries like India and China pretending to be that brand. According to a 2016 News report by Economic Times, China topped with a huge 63% share in the estimated half-a-trillion dollar worldwide imports of pirated and counterfeit goods, while India ranked 5th in fake goods trade.
Not only is it illegal to produce counterfeit supplements under an imitated brand, but the supplements they are selling, which can be in the form of pills from sugar to high doses drugs, will not be good for your health nor aid your wellbeing journey. In an investigation conducted by Gary Collins, a former US FDA Special Agent, he found out that some of the collected counterfeit supplements had no traces of medicinal ingredients, sometimes had ten times the amount of medicinal ingredients, and some simply contained sawdust–which can be extremely dangerous when ingested.
Choosing a reputable online drugstore, like IpharmaHome, will not only help you avoid intaking harmful medicinal ingredients, but you will also ensure your buying genuine medicinal products.
Besides the counterfeit supplements that these accounts found in an online marketplace are supplying, they could also be supplying their customers with expired products. Many genuine brands will sell their products at a cheaper rate when they know their products are about to expire.
This is simply because they want to get rid of stock by selling to people who otherwise would not have the money to purchase their products. However, little do these companies know that those people are not actual customers that want to use their products but counterfeiters.
Counterfeiters will buy old stock products from genuine companies, and they simply change the date of expiration on the packaging before selling it to the public online. Generally speaking, as long as these counterfeiters haven’t included their own fake supplements in the package, there will not be any serious risk when ingesting expired supplements–they are simply less potent.
In fact, taking expired supplements, according to Healthline, is not highly unlikely to cause harm nor they become poisonous. There haven’t been any documented cases of illness or death from ingesting expired supplements.
However, consumers might not even realize that the supplements are not working, because the placebo effect might chip in–especially if they are making other efforts to gain muscle or lose weight. This will result in constantly buying expired products from the counterfeiters online which is a complete waste of money.
Many of these counterfeit supplements are jam-packed with fillers and synthetic ingredients, with little to no active ingredients, enabling the supplement brands to lessen their costs and grow their profits. Many manufacturers are also cutting prices by putting in the inactive parts of specific botanicals and herbs, which don’t offer the same healing effects as the herb itself.
Thus, a supplement may say that it contains Saw Palmetto, but it doesn’t even contain the part of the plant nor has healing benefits, or worse yet, Ginkgo Biloba but it contains a mixture of fillers including black walnut, a potentially fatal hazard for consumers with nut allergies.
In some cases, these contents or fillers were only plant identified in the bottle–a health concern for individuals with any number of sensitivities or allergies who in most cases should be taking Hypoallergenic or free from supplements at all.
In extreme cases, the supplements you bought online could be stolen. Not only could they be stolen products from health and wellbeing brands, but hospitals and doctor’s offices as well.
Once you purchase stolen supplements, you are not only giving back to the thieves but also indirectly encouraging them to steal more. It could also be possible that you might be taking supplements that are meant for medicinal purposes, and not the actual supplement you are wanting. This can evidently come with its own risk to your health.
How to Safely Buy Supplements Online?
Check if it’s USP Verified
Look for this label on your supplement. It indicates that the has been found to contain the ingredients listed in the declared potency and independently tested; that it does not contain harmful levels of certain contaminants like mercury, lead, pesticides, molds, and bacteria; that it will break down within a specified amount of time in the body; and it has been based on FDA good manufacturing practices.
Research the Seller
Purchasing online has its inherent risks. You will likely be using your debit or credit card online to make these purchases, so you need to make sure the site can be trusted.
Scammers run fake web stores to access people’s information. Never share your information unless you have thoroughly researched the seller or website. Some online marketplaces like eBay or Amazon are prone to fake sellers. Though, with those websites, customers are almost always protected against fraud.
Customers should read reviews of both the supplements being purchased and the website itself. Before buying anything, be smart and always check an array of review sites.
There is a list of sites where only verified customers can leave a review, thus preventing the risk of being tricked by loads of fake five-star reviews! Try searching for the individual brand and the seller on multiple trusted review sites, compare reviews across the board, and watch out for dodgy-sounding fake reviews!
Don’t Be Misled
Many websites will be packed with false claims aimed at the unsuspecting buyer. Some brands will claim their supplement to be “prove” as most effective, or better yet, the “only” supplement you will ever need.
These bogus sellers will also claim health benefits that actually don’t exist. Look for professionally led studies and be sure to not make any claims at face value on products that you are considering purchasing. It would be very easy to be fooled by these sites, so take it slow and research, research, research!
The Bottom Line
This article is not only warning customers who purchase supplements on Amazon or eBay but online marketplaces in general. The bottom line here is simple: When shopping for products, especially supplements, always be skeptical.
Don’t forget that some companies are trying to scam you, looking to get your money by selling tainted or counterfeited products. Always check customer reviews and websites and look for fraud alerts on any product you are seeking to purchase.