NutraIngredients-USA ran an article Wednesday on the Vitamin Shoppe's decision to withdraw its "Especially for Women" multivitamin. The decision was sparked by the highly publicized results of a study conducted by industry watchdog ConsumerLab.com that pinpointed 11 products - out of 21 tested - as not meeting their labeled contents and standards.
The Vitamin Shoppe has said it is investigating the case, but has also questioned the integrity of ConsumerLab's testing and intentions - raising the question of who should regulate the dietary supplement industry.
"Our industry badly needs an independent testing procedure that truly has the best interests of the consumer at heart," said the Vitamin Shoppe CEO Tom Tolworthy, although he did not elaborate on what form testing could take or where funding for such an entity could come from.
ConsumerLab said the Vitamin Shoppe's multivitamin was contaminated with 15.3 micrograms of lead per daily serving. This is more than ten times the amount of lead permitted without a warning label in California - the only state to regulate lead in supplements - and several times the normal daily exposure to lead.
"We have no proof that our Especially for Women Multivitamin has been contaminated," said Tolworthy.
"Lead is a naturally occurring element within nature and exists in the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat. Nevertheless, while we remain convinced that the product is safe, as directed, we have committed to keep the health and safety of our customers first and foremost by removing the item from sale while we conduct our investigation."
The Vitamin Shoppe said it has not received the complete and unedited test results with the allegedly high lead content from ConsumerLab. The retailer said it received a summary only, which does not name labs doing the tests - nor the methodology, protocols or certification used in these labs.
This, said the compay, has meant it has not yet been able to perform the same tests as those contracted by ConsumerLab.
"At this time, we have no way to independently authenticate or replicate results."
In an interview with NutraIngredients-USA on Wednesday, ConsumerLab president Tod Cooperman said his organization does in fact make its tests readily available to companies.
The Vitamin Shoppe has also stood by its assertion that its products are manufactured according to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).
"We have strict checks and record keeping requirements that follow "Good Manufacturing Practices" for food and all products delivered to our distribution facility."
Draft current GMPs were published in 2003, but the final version of the guidelines are reported to still be going through a law-making process at the Office of Management and Budget.
"There is a proposed regulation for GMPs that are specific for dietary supplements that have been in discussion since 1995, said Tolworthy. "We regularly audit our contract labs to assure that they are complying with our educated best guess as to what these proposed regulations will entail and for the legally required compliance with food GMPs."