The China Paradox: Are Supplements Made from Chinese Ingredients Safe?
We take nutritional supplements to support our health and prevent nutritional deficiencies. However, there is a growing concern that China-made ingredients, used in many supplements, pose a health hazard. This is understandable given events in recent years that have uncovered issues with quality control processes among imports from China. The result has been a swaying of consumers to avoid China-made ingredients—including those in nutritional supplements.
No-China means no worries, right?
Not necessarily. There is an increasing movement among supplement manufacturers to declare that their products are safe because they are free of China-made ingredients. Unfortunately, this perception is flawed as it would be difficult to create a vitamin and mineral supplement without one or two ingredients from China. Here’s why that is, and what you really need to look for to ensure that a supplement is pure, safe, and of a good quality.
- Almost 90% of vitamin C comes from China
The corner on the vitamin C market is squarely set in China, and chances are that the vitamin C in your supplement also comes from there. Alternatively, there is one other source for vitamin C in Scotland, where raw materials for the vitamin cost three times as much as the Chinese source.1,2
- Where else to buy biotin?
At this time, there are no known manufacturers of biotin outside of China. However, this is not to say that it’s impossible to find American-made biotin that is actually imported from China and then triturated (ground into a powder).
- No fooling with folic acid
Pure folic acid mostly comes from China.3 Of course, it is possible to import Chinese folic acid into the US, where it is then triturated (much like biotin) and becomes “manufactured” in the US. The exception is the methylated 5-MTHF form of folic acid, which is often manufactured in the US.
There’s even more to consider
With costs and quality at stake, there are other things to consider when selecting a supplement.
- China corners the market on ingredients
As of July 2011, over 60% of dietary supplement ingredients sold in the US were imported from China.4 This is why the safety of a supplement should be based on quality processes, rather than the place the ingredients come from.
- Other ingredients, sources, and costs
There are many other vitamins and minerals that go into a bariatric-specific supplement. Vitamins A, D, and K, as well as B vitamins such as pyridoxine, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin, can all be sourced from areas other than China—but at a much greater cost.
- Who made the bottle?
Think about this—are your “safe” non-China supplements packed in bottles that are free from bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disrupter?5 BPA has been used to manufacture plastics since the late 1950s, and is a xenoestrogen that can mimic the effects of natural estrogen and possibly lead to reproductive system disorders.6
Safeguards are in place for imported ingredients
The Food Safety and Modernization Act, implemented in 2011, recognizes that the safety of the food supply is a shared responsibility among many different points in the global supply chain.7 This means that good manufacturing processes for imported global raw materials can be better enforced, with the ability to trace ingredients back to their source.8 However, even with safety protocols for raw materials in place, there is only one way to truly know how safe your supplement is: testing.
Claims mean nothing without testing
The quality, purity, and reliability of a supplement isn’t based on the country its ingredients come from, but whether the raw ingredients and the finished product are manufactured and tested using a high level of stringent best practices (such as manufacture in a GMP-rated facility). Tests performed on raw materials should identify the following:
- Heavy metals such as lead and mercury
- Environmental toxins and pesticides such as dioxins, furans, and PCBs
- Microbial contaminants such as coliform bacteria, yeast, and mold
- Freshness such as TOTOX values, as well as levels of peroxide and anisidine
- Quality measures such as taste and tolerance
Quality over country of origin
Whether an ingredient comes from Scotland, China, or the United States, it should be tested to ensure that it upholds the highest quality standards possible. Then, and only then, should consumers feel confident that their supplements are safe.
At Bariatric Advantage®, we hold ourselves to a higher quality standard through in-house testing and stringent sourcing requirements, to ensure our formulas go above and beyond the industry standard for purity and potency.
Learn about Bariatric Advantage supplements today.
- China Corners Vitamin Market. Available at: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/china-corners-vitamin-market. Access September 27, 2018.
- Harrison-Dunn A. Made In China: DSM talks vitamin c price pressures. Available at: https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2016/02/17/Made-in-China-DSM-talks-vitamin-C-price-pressures. Accessed September 27, 2018.
- Lee D. China’s additives on menu in U.S. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-chinafood18may18-story.html. Access September 28, 2018.
- Israelsen L. Does ‘Made in China’ matter to supplement consumers. New Hope Network. Available at: https://www.newhope.com/ingredients-general/does-made-china-matter-supplement-consumers. Accessed October 4, 2018.
- European Chemicals Agency. MSC unanimously agrees that Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor. Available at: https://echa.europa.eu/-/msc-unanimously-agrees-that-bisphenol-a-is-an-endocrine-disruptor. Accessed October 5, 2018.
- Askglaede L et al. The sensitivity of the child to sex steroids: possible impact of exogenous estrogens. Human Reproduction Update, Volume 12, Issue 4, 1 August 2006, Pages 341–349.
- FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/fsma. Accessed October 1, 2018.
- Top 3 tips for sourcing ingredients from China. New Hope Network. Available at: https://www.newhope.com/ingredients/top-3-tips-sourcing-ingredients-china. Accessed October 1, 2018.