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  • Debra Topham

Warning Letter Lessons for Dietary Supplements

The FDA recently issued a warning letter to a dietary supplement company;  KnowledgeBank has always recommended food and supplement companies read warning letters to gain understanding into the regulations and how the FDA approaches such situations.

Remember there are many more FDA inspections, than warning letters.   Letters result when issues do not get addressed adequately and promptly.  This particular warning letter was issued  more than 90-days after the companies original response. The letter covered three broad categories:

  1. Unapproved New Drugs

  2. Adulterated Dietary Supplements

  3. Misbranded Dietary Supplement.

Unapproved New Drugs:

As you read the letter its clear the Unapproved Drug claims are the most egregious issue — the FDA list reasons why they found the supplement was a drug:

“Examples of some of the claims that provide evidence that your product is intended for use as a drug include the following:”

  1. “Chinese medicine ….”

  2. “[H]as been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years ….”

  3. “[B]ees use propolis to protect themselves from bacteria and diseases. Propolis has been around for over 40 million years and has been used by man for thousands of years ….”

  4. “Propolis … contains more than 30 different flavonoids and antioxidants to help control free radicals. Free radicals are caused by waste from our body cells that increase with … infections … and toxins. The antioxidants help to neutralize the free radicals and prevent cell damage.”

Adulterated Dietary Supplement:

The FDA broadly outlines the meaning of “adulterated dietary supplement..[a] product has been held under conditions that do not meet the Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packaging, Labeling, or Holding Operations for Dietary Supplements (CGMP) regulations, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 111 (21 CFR Part 111).”

They then go on the provide the specific reason why the product was adulterated:  “As a distributor that contracts with a manufacturer to manufacture, package, and label dietary supplements on your behalf that your firm releases for distribution under your firm’s name, your firm has an obligation to know what and how manufacturing, packaging, and/or labeling activities are performed so that you can make decisions related to whether your dietary supplement products conform to established specifications and whether to approve and release the products for distribution

Finally the FDA provide examples as to how the distributor’s procedures (such as failure to open the incoming packages) could not possibly allow the distributor to  make informed decisions about their product.

“your written procedures for quality control operations do not include quality control functions such as reviewing documentation from the manufacturers with whom you contract relating to how the products you release into commerce are manufactured and whether they conform to established specifications.”

“your firm must collect reserve samples for each lot of packaged and labeled dietary supplements that you distribute, and hold the samples in accordance with 21 CFR 111.83(b)”

“You failed to establish and follow written procedures for fulfilling the requirements for returned dietary supplements, as required by 21 CFR 111.503”

Misbranded Dietary Supplement:

Misbranding boils down to errors on the label itself.

  • Not labeling parts of the plant:“the label fails to identify the part of the plant (e.g., root, leaves) from which each botanical dietary ingredient in the product is derived, as required by 21 CFR 101.4(h)(1).

  • Incorrect or inconsistent serving size:“Take 1 capsule twice daily,” but the serving size lists “2” capsules.

  • Not recognizing some words like “Good” or “Rich” have regulatory meanings:“Propolis is a rich source of minerals, vitamins C, E, provitamin A, and B-Complex ….” To bear “rich in” claims, a product must contain 20% or more of the RDI or DRV of the nutrients that are the subject of the claim, in accordance with 21 CFR 101.54(c)

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