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ConsumerLab.com Answers

Question:
Can I trust ConsumerLab.com? How are its tests paid for?

Answer:
ConsumerLab.com is an impartial and independent third-party evaluator of health and nutrition products and has been reporting unbiased, scientifically valid test results since 1999. It is not only one of the oldest third-party evaluators of dietary supplements, but is the only one which publishes test methods and criteria publicly and has always provided extensive information about its testing programs and management on its About Us page.

ConsumerLab.com's research staff includes leading experts in the testing of dietary supplements. This staff selects the proper methods by which products are evaluated. ConsumerLab.com's quality standards are often more exacting than those used by other third-party evaluators and by supplement companies themselves, including stricter limits on lead contamination and the use of tests which do not inflate results. The staff purchases, logs, and prepares samples of products, and tests all regular tablets for proper disintegration. Blinded samples are also sent, overnight, to laboratories expert in other specific areas of analysis. These results are carefully reviewed by the staff. If a problem is found, a blinded sample is sent to a second independent laboratory for confirmation to ensure accuracy.

How Tests Are Paid For:
Unlike other third-party evaluators which work exclusively for supplement manufacturers and do not report negative findings, ConsumerLab.com's entire focus is on providing information to help consumers and healthcare providers. It does this by publishing independent Product Reviews of the products it selects, purchases, and tests. These Reviews are funded by membership fees ($42/year) paid by over 75,000 individual online members and subscription fees paid by public and university libraries, hospitals, and other institutions through which hundreds of thousands more consumers and healthcare professionals are able to access ConsumerLab.com. ConsumerLab.com has no other form of membership and is fully owned by its management. 

To further benefit consumers, Product Review reports are supplemented with information about products which have been approved through ConsumerLab.com's Quality Certification Program, which follows the same strict product purchasing and testing protocols of the Product Reviews. A company pays a testing fee for its product to be tested in the Quality Certification Program. This in no way guarantees the product will pass, nor does it mean that ConsumerLab.com won't select that product, or other products from that company, for future review.

Attempts to "Shoot the Messenger" -- Correcting Misinformation about ConsumerLab.com
ConsumerLab.com frequently identifies problems, such as contamination, missing or adulterated ingredients, and improperly made pills, which can be disappointing or embarrassing for some companies. Over the years there have been attempts to, essentially, "shoot the messenger" by discrediting ConsumerLab.com or its findings. These efforts typically come from companies whose products have failed ConsumerLab.com's tests, those who sell these products, or those who work on the behalf of these companies, such as trade groups, public relations specialists, and attorneys. An example is the lobbying group called the "Alliance for Natural Health" or ANH-USA, which receives funding from supplement companies and launches "campaigns" against laws, officials, and regulatory groups which provide oversight or try to apply high standards to healthcare products and services. ANH-USA has repeatedly published false and misleading information and ignored ConsumerLab.com's request for correction. In contrast to these industry-supported groups, countless physicians, dieticians, nutritionists, nurses, health advocates, leading health institutions, government agencies, and respected health journalists routinely praise ConsumerLab.com and both rely on and cite its findings.

Contrary to what some in the supplement industry have insinuated, ConsumerLab.com is not focused on shaming or coercing companies to have products tested in its certification program. In fact, ConsumerLab.com does not publicly announce the identities of failing products, but publishes this information exclusively for its members and subscribers after signing in to the ConsumerLab.com website. In limited situations, such as when a product represents a particular hazard or fraud, ConsumerLab.com, however, may permit journalists to cite its test results.

Some in the supplement industry have tried to criticize ConsumerLab.com for using outside laboratories, but the value of these laboratories should be apparent, providing additional layers of scientific review and access to areas of special analytical expertise. ConsumerLab.com does not release the names of the laboratories which it uses. When it has in the past, some were threatened with a loss of business by supplement manufacturers.

Should you read anything which seems to provide misinformation about ConsumerLab.com or its tests, please let us know. ConsumerLab.com typically responds to these through Updates posted within respective Product Reviews.


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This CL Answer initially posted on 3/15/2013. Last updated 8/8/2017.

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