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Ongoing Report: Some Supplement Brands Sold On Amazon Using Fillers Instead Of Active Ingredients

For years, Amazon has engaged in a corporate battle with its 3rd party resellers, who buy imitation products and resell them on the Amazon platform, such as iPhone cables to clothing, and health supplements. Amazon is aware of this and has stated this publicly. Image | Seattle City Council from Seattle Wikimedia Commons | CC-BY-2.0 

By Donald Standeford, SJ Founder/Publisher
September 29, 2022 04:00 am UTC
Modified: 2022-09-29 04:00 am
By Adam Butler, SJ Correspondent
September 29, 2022 04:00 am UTC
Modified: 2022-09-29 04:00 am

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United States – Amazon, the go-to platform for online sales of any kind, has been implicated in an independent undercover investigation into its health supplement brands, due to some counterfeit products being sold by fraudulent third party brands. In 2020, up to 42% of the reviews on Amazon were reported to have been fake.

We at The Standeford Journal were able to acquire related documents, thanks to a confidential source. This report is considered “ongoing” as we will be revealing more information in the following weeks.

According to a 2019 article on Wired, Amazon had notified consumers that a brand, known as Align supplements, had been selling counterfeits as actual supplements. Those that had ordered Align products, were sent a simple email, notifying them of the deceit, instructing their disposal immediately, and sent a full refund.

For years, Amazon has engaged in a corporate battle with its 3rd party resellers, who buy imitation products and resell them on the Amazon platform, such as iPhone cables to clothing, and health supplements. Amazon is aware of this and has stated this publicly.

“We are aware that some counterfeit Align product was sold on Amazon via 3rd parties,… Amazon has confirmed they have stopped 3rd party sales of the Align products in question and Amazon is only selling Align products received directly from Proctor & Gamble…” – Mollie Wheeler, P&G Spokesperson, July 2019.

Several initiatives were pushed in 2019 to incentivize 3rd party brands to become more accountable. However, these programs must be chosen as an elective by the brands to join, and are not required to participate.

A process called ‘dry-labbing,’ which was brought to light by an episode of Dateline NBC in 2012 is also occurring at amazon, which is the leading cause of 3rd party brands being able to counterfeit materials.

New Evidence: Potency And Purity Tests

According to the Mayo Clinic, CoQ10 is an all-natural antioxidant produced by the body. As we get older, our body decreases the production of CoQ10 due to statin (cholesterol-lowering drugs) intake and other per-existing conditions like congestive heart failure and Parkinson’s disease.

The evidence, which we have been able to attain, is regarding a health supplement known as Coenzyme-Q10 (CoQ10), which is sold by many brands across several platforms, including Amazon.

Data table created by Adam Butler from anonymous independent researchers to categorize and explain the findings which were the result of potency and purity tests on CoQ10 of several brands sold on Amazon. Image | Adam Butler

CoQ10 chemical structure diagram: Coenzyme Q10 functions as an endogenous antioxidant; deficiencies of this enzyme have been observed in patients with many different types of cancer and limited studies have suggested that coenzyme Q10 may induce tumor regression in patients with breast cancer. This agent may have immunostimulatory effects. (NCI04) NCI Thesaurus (NCIt) | Wikimedia | Public Domain

The release confirms that potency tests were conducted for several brands sold through Amazon between 2020 to 2022. In fear of retribution from 3rd party brands as well as Amazon, the independent researchers have remained anonymous but were able to verify their credentials through other acceptable means, and going forward will be known as simply the researchers.

The researchers stated that, “CoQ10 sold on Amazon under many brands, tested low to none for active ingredients”.

By the data table, Violator 1 stated 200mg per cap of CoQ10, yet no CoQ10 was detected and was no longer selling on Amazon by 2022.

Violator 2 showed the same results in 2020 as Violator 1. In 2022 however, gains were made, the detected 11mg per cap is a far cry from the 200mg per cap, stated on the label.

They went on to say that, “A total of 10 brands were tested in secret in 2020, and 8 brands were tested in 2021-22. Out of the 8 tested in 2021-22, 4 of those brands were re-tests from the 2020 group. Out of all the Amazon brands tested in 2020 and 2021, none of them met the GMP label claims nor their Certificate of Authenticity, which is a violation of FDA Regulations and Federal Law.”

It has also been brought to light that a constant battle exists at Amazon between fraudulent 3rd party brands, and those brands that choose to conduct regular potency and purity tests with effective quality control standards.

Often the fraudulent brands proceed to inflate their own reviews with positive feedback, as well as posting negative feedback on their competition.

Fraudulent third party brands being able to artificially inflate the reviews in such a way puts a strain on consumer trust in product reviews presented on the Amazon platform itself.

Independent monitoring service Fakespot reported in 2020 that up to 42% of all Amazon reviews that year were actually fake reviews. A number that had risen from 36% from the previous year.

The FDA’s supplement regulations, known as 21 CFR Part 111, are very clear. All ingredients should be tested before and after production. Retailers, such as Amazon, must ensure this occurs for the brands they carry, both in a legal sense, as well as to maintain consumer trust in the products being sold on the Amazon platform.

There were other sources in the release which showed similar results and they were SAMe, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Phosphatidyl Serine, and Turmeric/Curcumin all showing lack of potency and inaccurate labeling.

It is imperative that Amazon holds its brands accountable for maintaining GMP certifications from quality control agencies that will inspect the manufacturers. Those agents in turn should also be certified by the ANSI National Accreditation Board. The two most used agencies are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and NSF.

In an effort to better understand what is going on, we conducted some research and found a contract manufacturer which is a reputable contract manufacturer for 3rd party Amazon brands of health supplements, called PureNSM.

PureNSM’s CEO, Oskar Thorvaldsson, was kind enough to take our questions and offer his perspective on things:

We all love Amazon, I know for sure there are so many great supplements for sale there. I know because we make them! I am in total shock over the test results which you have shared with me. I do not know if it is related, but we get many requests from brands who say they are getting prices from other plants that don’t even cover the cost of raw materials, let alone testing costs I just hope they are not large sellers on Amazon… We do offer a price guarantee for our services, if anyone can get a lower quote from a factory ‘with the same certifications as we do’ then we will match the price. We hold UL, NSF, and NPA certifications“. – Oskar Thorvaldsson, CEO of PureNSM

Amazon retains 77% of the online supplement market. The company’s revenue grew to $33.364B in 2021, and this data is easily found on business profile listings, online.

Continuing to allow the resale of fake supplements, which Amazon has been proven to stop in the past, would be a bad and unethical business practice. Consumers receive competitive prices, with the illusion they purchase adequate products, and eventually, lose trust in Amazon as awareness is heightened.

I found this on the The Standeford Journal, on the following page: