The Fake Supplement Issue No One Is Talking About – Beware of Amazon

The Fake Supplement Issue No One Is Talking About – Beware of Amazon
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Amazon has been making headlines lately due to surges in counterfeits, imitation merchants, and elaborate fake review scams. It seems as though this giant got too big for its britches and can’t keep these under control.

There are countless stories of ruined livelihoods of small business owners due to counterfeit shops that sell knock offs of their products. Even when these counterfeit shops are reported to Amazon and taken down (which doesn’t always happen), a new one can just as easily pop up.

Sadly enough, even “verified sellers” aren’t always reliable since they are sometimes found to be unscrupulous.  My friend who sells professional products told me about  how a counterfeit claimed her authentic store was the fraud and the real store was shut down – what a mess!

Another concern is most things you buy online from mass retailers come from a large warehouses and not from the manufacturer itself. This has huge implications for anything with an expiration date or that requires climate controlled environment for potency, like probiotics.

In a recent Forbes article, The Place Where American Dreams Are Stolen By Chinese Counterfeiters, journalists found that 25 percent of Amazon’s marketplace are Chinese knockoffs – and that’s just what’s specifically coming from China.

The problem is so out of control it’s crushing small businesses and leaving customers with imitation products. I see this as a pervasive problem that is hurting numerous people. As a doctor, what comes to mind when I hear all of this is the growing issue of fake supplements.


Supplements Are a Massive Industry

In 2015, the global dietary supplement market size was $112 billion. This is an industry that has almost no regulation and essentially operates on an honor code. This means we are guinea pigs unless we choose to take matters into our own hands.

Not really something you want to hear when it comes to the “vitamins and minerals” you’re putting in your body each day, is it?

While this is disturbing, we also don’t want to swing too hard the other direction, which would require pharmaceutical type regulations on supplements. Because this would mean only the companies with the deepest pockets would be able to survive in the supplement industry.

These would be the companies that could afford extensive testing, which would rule out small businesses that have high quality products but don’t have billions to pay for double-blind studies. This would take power away from the small, yet quality producers and quite frankly it would take power away from the consumer. That isn’t a good thing either.  


What About Buying Supplements From Retail Stores?

Now, you might be thinking if you purchase your supplements from a retail store you’ll benefit from the discrimination and protection of that store. Wouldn’t names like Walgreens, Target, and even GNC work to protect their supplement supplies so they maintain a good reputation?

Unfortunately, the issue fake supplements is so pervasive even these stores aren’t immune from the problem. In fact, in some cases they are part of the dilemma. In a 2015 New York State attorney general’s office report, they accused GNC, Walgreens, Target, and Walmart of selling “fraudulent and potentially dangerous” supplements.

Here are a few more disturbing details from that same report:

  • GNC supplements contained ingredients that were not listed on their labels. Some of which are very dangerous allergens for certain people, such as peanuts and soybean.
  • A ginseng supplement from Walgreens turned out to be only rice and garlic.
  • Six supplements from Target tested negative for the main ingredient they claimed – they actually contained beans, rice, peas, and carrots.

How incredibly frustrating. When it comes to retail stores, you cannot blindly trust them either.

If you do decide to opt for a retail store, I recommend small, independent apothecaries that have an excellent reputation with knowledgeable staff. These do exist and once you find a good one, it can be a huge relief to be able to trust them.


Who Should You Buy Supplements From?

So, what’s a consumer like you supposed to do?

Buy from trusted, professional producers (and suppliers) with the smallest supply chain possible.

Whenever you can, purchase straight from the producer.

And definitely avoid Amazon.

Here are a few of the brands I trust and recommend buying from directly or from one of their trusted suppliers:

Here are a few certifications that are great to see on reputable brands – keep in mind these could be claimed by a counterfeit on Amazon but they are still good to see when searching out a quality producer.

  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Certified Manufacturing Facility by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
  • National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International Certified for Sport – This is a certification in place to protect professional athletes from accidental positive drug tests.


Take the Time to Protect Yourself From Fake Supplements

Sure, it may be slightly less convenient to get each supplement from a supplier to avoid Amazon but if you’re spending your money on concentrated health products, doesn’t taking the extra few minutes to make sure you’re getting exactly what it says on the bottle seem worth it?

While Amazon might get this under control one day, it’s definitely not under control at the moment. This is why it’s best to get your supplements and anything else you consume from a supplier you trust and where the product changes hands as few times as possible. This is also the case with food when you think about it – anything you can get directly from a farmer is better than even a Whole Foods (which is now owned by Amazon).

When it comes to what you’re putting in your body, we know now more than ever before it’s worth it to be vigilant. This is an important step in taking control of our health and living our best, most fulfilling lives.

Share this article far and wide, it’s incredibly important information we all need to be aware of to take control of our health!


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29 thoughts on “The Fake Supplement Issue No One Is Talking About – Beware of Amazon

  1. Scott Rubel says:

    This is concerning. I recently bought supplements from Amazon. But, even if they are from Amazon, these items are sold by certain businesses. I suppose you can learn which ones of those you can and can’t trust. I;m not surprised about WalMart. Just by instinct I would never have bought supplements from them. Do you still trust Pure Encapsulations now that it is owned by Nestlé? Even if I do, Nestlé does not deserve my money (or anyone’s), so I’ve taken that brand off my list.

    • Jill Carnahan, MD says:

      I know… it is sad it has come to this! I love Amazon…Don’t get me wrong 😉 but I do think that it is best to purchase your nutritional supplements from either pharmacy, physician or health care provider or directly from the company itself.

  2. Antonio says:

    What are your thoughts on NOW products? I like to buy from Thorne, Pure, or Biotics, when possible, but they’re pretty expensive. I tend to use a lot of NOW products: L-Glutamin, Quercetin, Super Enzymes, HCL, and others, so I’d be curious for your opinion.

  3. Cynthia says:

    As an NP and functional nutritionist, this is why I encourage my clients to purchase directly from me….I have had seen far too many well meaning friends, colleagues, etc be duped off of Amazon supplement purchases. Thanks for posting!

  4. Amy says:

    So are you saying that you can buy an Ortho or Thorne product from Amazon and it might be counterfeit? I have wondered about this possibility as some of the labels are faded or a slightly different color

  5. Dawn says:

    Check out Kirkman to add to your list Their products are tested for 950 environmental contaminants. Most are their brand but also sell Thorne and Nordic Naturals. Probiotics are shipped on dry ice. Would love for you to assess the green superfood powders/products out there too! You have such valuable info, thank you.

  6. steve lyles says:

    Supplements make me ill regardless of source…manufacturer or supplier…… I do have bio toxin illness (20 years}……but I know of many who complain of feeling unwell after taking supplements…… regardless of “health” …..paradoxically Pharmaceuticals do not have the same reaction with my hypersensitive body ……

  7. Melanie says:

    I always go to Natural Grocers to buy supplements. Are you saying that none of them are professional grade ? How do I know what is professional grade? If they aren’t considered professional grade, does this mean there is no benefit or just partial benefit?

    • Jill Carnahan, MD says:

      Hi Melanie,
      Some of the products at health food stores are quality-professional grade but others are not. Best to purchase from reputable pharmacy, physician, or health care provider or a least research before buying.

  8. Presouz says:

    Sadly any of them can be a target a few years ago I did buy from pure encapsulations from I thought reputable website and it turned out to be nothing but trash and junk It did not work one bit so I backslided it said it was magnesium glycinate bottle but I can guarantee you there was no magnesium in those capsules

  9. Marci says:

    Yes I also love Amazon and have had Amazon Prime for years. I buy most everything there including sups. Our local Health Food Stores are small and expensive. Other places online like vitacost, vitamin shoppe, iherb, etc., charge crazy prices for shipping and handling and take a good week or more to receive. I also have group of trusted companies I usually buy from on Amazon. I don’t know for sure if I’m being scammed or not. Wish there was a way to know for sure.

  10. Margaret says:

    I buy some of my supplements from Swanson, including their brand. Their prices are usually a bit lower than found elsewhere, but I have wondered about the quality.

  11. Paulette Miksch says:

    What is your opinion on Pro Caps laboratories and Andrew Lesman? They manufacture all types of supplements. Thank you.

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