Adulteration of Dietary Supplements by the Illegal Addition of Synthetic Drugs: A Review uri icon


  • In the last few years, the consumption of dietary supplements, especially those having plants as ingredients, has been increasing due to the common idea that they are natural products posing no risks to human health. In the European Union and the United States, dietary supplements are legally considered as foods/special category of foods, thus are not being submitted to any safety assessment prior to their commercialization. Among the issues that can affect safety, adulteration by the illegal addition of pharmaceutical substances or their analogs is of major concern since unscrupulous producers can falsify these products to provide for quick effects and to increase sales. This review discusses the various classes of synthetic drugs most frequently described as being illegally added to dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, muscle building/sport performance and sexual performance enhancement. Information regarding regulation and consumption is also presented. Finally, several conventional and advanced analytical techniques used to detect and identify different adulterants in dietary supplements and therefore also in foods, with particular emphasis on plant food supplements, are critically described. This review demonstrates that dietary supplement adulteration is an emerging food safety problem and that an effective control by food regulatory authorities is needed to safeguard consumers.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016