Dietary Supplements: Which Products Are Safer?

Supplements, although they have some regulation by the FDA, FTC, and USDA, not all supplements or companies are created equally. We recommend choosing supplements with secondary certifications such as NSF or USP that have stricter guidelines and safety profiles. We typically only use professional brand companies to avoid getting low-quality supplements. We caution you about potential false claims made by supplement companies not supported by peer-reviewed double-blind studies. However, if there is clear evidence to support its use in a certain disease process, we will share the current research with our patients.

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) works to develop public health standards and certification programs that help protect the world’s food, water, consumer products and environment. They offer independent third-party certification programs for many consumer products, including nutritional supplements and personal care products, to ensure that manufacturing and finished products comply with all standard requirements.

Product Certification

The certification process for dietary supplements involves:

  • A label review to certify that what’s on the label is in the bottle
  • A toxicology review of ingredients and product formulation (not efficacy)
  • A contaminant review to ensure the product contains no undeclared ingredients or unacceptable levels of contaminants
  • A Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facility inspection
  • An annual laboratory testing for microbiology, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides, disintegrative and verification of label content to maintain certification

For more information or to view a complete list of NSF product listings, visit the NSF website.

United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Dietary Supplement Verification Program

The USP Dietary Supplement Verification Program is a voluntary third-party certification aimed at verifying the quality of finished products, ensuring what’s on the label is in the bottle. The testing and auditing process evaluates products based on the current FDA good manufacturing practices and USP-NF standards for quality, purity, potency, performance, and consistency. The program is available globally to manufacturers of dietary supplements.

Product Certification

The product certification involves:

  • A facility audit according to USP General Chapter Manufacturing Practices for Dietary Supplements and FDA current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) An evaluation of product quality control and the manufacturing (QCM) process Laboratory testing of product samples for ensure conformance to USP-NF quality standards. Off-the-shelf testing of USP Verified dietary supplements to ensure products continue to meet USP standards after certification
  • The certification process ensures that products:
  • Contain the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts
  • Do not contain harmful levels of certain contaminants such as heavy metals, microbes, and pesticides
  • Are effective and break down in the body within a specified amount of time in order to be absorbed
  • Have been manufactured according to FDA GMP
  • USP also offers stand-alone GMP audits, as well as verification programs for ingredients and excipients.
  • For more information, visit the USP website.

*These statements are not meant to diagnose or treat. You should consult your health care provider before starting any new diet, exercise, or supplement.