Dietary supplement concerns? Tell the FTC and FDA

By: Mary Engle, FTC, and Steven Tave, FDA

Ever bought a dietary supplement or other health-related product that didn’t work as promised? Maybe you had side effects, or the claims just seemed unbelievable. Know this: the government holds companies accountable for making baseless claims about products marketed as dietary supplements.

Mary Engle

Mary Engle is FTC’s Associate Director, Division of Advertising Practices

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FDA have enforcement programs to protect consumers from false and misleading claims about the safety and benefits of products marketed as dietary supplements. Both agencies have authority over the marketing of these products.

You can help. Tell the FTC or FDA if:

  • You bought a dietary supplement that didn’t work as advertised – or you had an adverse reaction or illness.
  • You’re suspicious that a company is making false or overstated claims in its labeling or marketing. (Watch for claims about so-called “treatments” or “cures” for diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and others. Dietary supplements cannot lawfully claim to diagnose, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease.)
  • You’re concerned about the content, purity, or safety of the product.
Steve Tave

Steven Tave is FDA’s Director, Office of Dietary Supplement Programs

So who should you contact about what issue with products marketed as dietary supplements?

Labeling Claims, Content, Purity, Safety: FDA looks at whether claims on dietary supplement product labels and other packaging materials are true and accurate. They also oversee manufacturing, content, purity, and safety – including tracking any adverse reactions.

  • Concerned about a statement made on a product label or other packaging, or about the content or purity of the product? Report it to FDA.
  • If you or your doctor think you’ve had an adverse reaction to a product marketed as a dietary supplement, report it – or other safety concerns – to FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal.

Advertising Claims: The FTC looks at the truth and accuracy of any claims made in dietary supplement advertising and marketing. That means the FTC watches claims made on TV, radio, and in print ads, as well as in social media and online marketing. (More about online marketing below)

  • Think a claim seems false, unsupported, or simply unbelievable? Does it promise to treat or cure a disease? Tell the FTC. 

dietary supplements, bottles imageWebsites and Internet Marketing: The FTC and FDA work together to monitor claims made on websites or in other online marketing.

  • Dubious about claims made online about a dietary supplement? Report it to either the FTC or FDA. Then we’ll work together to figure out which agency will take the lead.

If you’re still not sure who to report to, just report it to one of us and we’ll sort it out – the important thing is that you report!

Mary Engle is FTC’s Associate Director, Division of Advertising Practices

Steven Tave is FDA’s Director, Office of Dietary Supplement Programs