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Dateline NBC Exposes Dietary Supplement Dry Labbing Practices

Dateline NBC exclusive contends that “dry labbing,” or faking studies and relying on unproven assumptions, is a widespread practice in the dietary supplement industry.

March 23, 2012 – Last Sunday’s airing of a Dateline NBC exclusive on dry labbing in the dietary supplement industry shed light on the disturbing widespread practice. Dry labbing is when research or analysis is claimed to be conducted, but in reality the conclusions are guessed at or copied from other sources. Dateline’s exposé was hailed by industry experts as an “important first step in addressing this problem.”

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What’s the problem?

In an interview with NutraIngredients-USA, ChromaDex CSO and cofounder Frank Jaksch stated that the practice of dry labbing has been going on for far too long.

“Industry has to fix this on its own,” he said. “This is an opportunity for the market to say, ‘There is a problem and we may be able to do something about it.”

Jaksch went on to say that there are probably many more laboratories engaging in dry labbing than most people think.

Dateline NBC Investigation into Dry Labbing

For the exposé, Dateline NBC reporter Chris Hansen and his undercover crew investigated Tucson, AZ-based Atlas Bioscience. With the help of industry experts at ChromaDex, samples were contaminated with arsenic, lead, sibutramine, and selenium dioxide, and then sent to Atlas for testing along with a fabricated certificate of analysis (C of A). Atlas’s results came back nearly identical to the phony C of A, and there was no indication that the company found any contamination in the samples.

Loren Israelsen, executive director of United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), said that Dateline’s exposé was shocking, and that the practice of dry labbing needs to be addressed immediately.

“The bigger issue is lab competence, and this extends to food, drugs, and other analyticals, including water testing,” he said. “The hope from this show is that the entire commercial chain within the dietary supplements industry – from raw material suppliers, contract manufacturers, brand owners, contract labs, academics who support the industry, and the Office of Dietary Supplements – comes together and helps to develop lab competence.”

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