Consumers who purchase vitamins want to be able to verify the quality, safety and potency of these products. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration set June 2010 as the date by which all manufacturers of dietary supplements must meet quality standards, including accuracy of ingredients on labels and absence of contaminants (bacteria, lead, glass and pesticides). Two independent organizations already offer voluntary labeling programs. Reading and understanding product labels is helpful in verifying which vitamins are better.
Locate the expiration date on the bottle or package by the initials "Exp." Over time, vitamins lose their potency and should be discarded.
Locate "Supplement Facts" on the label. Each vitamin listed should provide around 100 percent of the daily value (%DV). Greater amounts are unnecessary. Manufacturers are unable to place 100 percent of DV of calcium in a product. It would be too large to swallow and calcium ideally should be divided throughout the day.
Locate the initials "USP" (U.S. Pharmacopeia), the "USP Verified" seal or the letters "NSF" (NSF International) on the label. These markings verify the manufacturer is complying with good manufacturing practices, product safety and proper labeling. In addition, the USP seal verifies the product has been independently tested for purity, potency and how quickly it dissolves in the stomach.
Investigate specific brands of vitamins online by visiting the USP Verified Dietary Supplements or NSF Certified Dietary Products websites (see Resources).
- U.S. Pharmacopeia: Dietary Supplement Verification Program
- Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient Supplementation. J Amer Diet Association. December 2009; 109 (12): 2073-2085
- Health.gov: Executive Summary of Dietary Supplement Health Education Act