Adverse reactions from supplements and herbal remedies have led two U.S. senators to propose legislation requiring additional information on product labels.
It comes as patients continue to report symptoms linked to tainted vitamins manufactured in Farmingdale.
"Consumers don't know some dietary supplements are unsafe until they're in the hospital, and by that time it's too late," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a statement.
Blumenthal and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the proposal late last week.
"This legislation would make lifesaving information available to the FDA that may stop suspect products from causing injury, or even death," according to Blumenthal's statement.
Many supplements have purposely added illegal weight-loss chemicals, sexual-enhancement and bodybuilding compounds or other additives, such as excessive caffeine, according to an April article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Supplements are not required to undergo the tough -- and expensive -- regulatory scrutiny required of prescription drugs.
Blumenthal said the measure would help consumers make educated choices by requiring more information about contents on product labels. The bill would also give more authority to the Food and Drug Administration by requiring manufacturers to register their products and the ingredients. Manufacturers, he added, would have to provide proof of health-benefit claims.
Called the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act, the legislation comes as federal investigators continue to probe how anabolic steroids found their way into the vitamin products of a Long Island supplement maker.
The FDA isolated two potent steroids, dimethazine and methasterone, from the vitamins produced by Purity First Health Products, Inc. in East Northport.
Dr. Ken Spaeth, of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, the physician who linked the illness of 20 patients to Purity First's vitamin capsules, reported Monday that as many as 10 more patients may have suffered adverse symptoms. Those cases are being evaluated.
To date, 29 people have been sickened after consuming Purity First's vitamins. One person was hospitalized. Anabolic steroids are used by bodybuilders to increase muscle mass.
Candice Tripp, the East Northport owner of Purity First, insists her vitamins were never tainted. The owner of the Farmingdale manufacturing company, Mira Health Products Ltd., which produced Tripp's vitamins, said through a lawyer last week that the firm has hired a professional laboratory consultant to investigate the matter.
Early last week, federal health officials had urged Tripp to voluntarily recall only her vitamin B product. But before the week ended, the government was urging her to include certain lots of her vitamin C and mineral products as well.
There are more major recalls nationwide of dietary supplements than prescription drugs, research shows.
In April, a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 51 percent of the FDA's Class 1 recalls involved dietary supplements. A Class 1 recall involves dangerous products that can cause serious health problems or death.
Most supplements in the study contained sexual-enhancement, bodybuilding or weight-loss aids, researchers found.
Currently, the FDA has no authority to require detailed ingredient information from a manufacturer about a dietary supplement before it is put on the market, Durbin said. "Regulation of supplements can be improved to protect public health and it starts with making more information available to consumers and the FDA," he said.
He added that the bill goes beyond previous federal measures by ensuring that a supplement's ingredients are registered with the FDA and that a supplement's risks are printed on the label. He and Blumenthal said they want to make certain that supplement makers can back up their claims.