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 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.
Sadly enough, even “verified sellers” aren’t always reliable since they are sometimes found to be unscrupulous.
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, Amazon.com: The Place Where American Dreams Are Stolen By Chinese Counterfeiters, journalists found that 25 percent of Amazon’s marketplace are Chinese knockoffs.
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.
This 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.
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:
- Ortho Molecular Products
- Thorne Research
- Nordic Naturals
- Pure Encapsulations
- Prothera/Klaire Lab
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.