May 15, 2019 -- CVS Pharmacy is launching a new program that will require all of its vitamins and supplements -- in-store and online -- to be tested by a third party, so it can make sure label information is correct and guard against contamination.
The move, the first of its kind by as major U.S. retailer, comes amid rising concerns that vitamins and supplements are poorly regulated. While the FDA does keep an eye on vitamins and supplements after they hit the market, the agency is not required to screen their contents to make sure they’re correct -- and the agency can take them off the market only if they’re proven to be unsafe, misbranded, or if the manufacturer claims the product cures disease.
That’s why CVS started the “Tested to Be Trusted” program -- to give customers confidence that what’s on the label matches what’s inside the bottle, says George Coleman, senior vice president of merchandising at CVS.
More than 1,400 vitamins and supplements from 152 brands have already been tested -- and 7% of them failed the inspection. Those products were either pulled from store shelves or had their label information corrected. Coleman says that 22 products were removed from store shelves, in total, and that they could have failed for a number of reasons. He declined to name the products that failed the tests.
“If it said it was gluten-free and it turned out there was some gluten in it, that would cause a failure. If there was an allergen in it, like tree nuts that weren’t listed, that would cause a failure,” he says.
The “Tested to Be Trusted” program is also aimed at making sure the products are free from any contaminants that could harm consumers, including heavy metals and certain pesticides.
According to CVS’s website, tests will be done on a single lot of the vitamin or supplement, and third-party testing for later batches will not be required -- but it will continue to test any new products before they hit shelves.
All products must have their labels verified by NSF International or U.S. Pharmacopeia, or take part in CVS’s third-party testing program run by NSF International or Eurofins, a lab specializing in food and medical products.