When evaluating health and nutritional supplements to carry in your store or recommend to customers, it’s very important to pay close attention to product claims. This includes claims on product packaging and accompanying marketing materials. Marketers know they have very little time to capture your attention and convince you to take a closer look. The language they use can make all the difference and unfortunately some brands take a “say anything” approach that is misleading and casts a negative shadow on the entire supplement industry.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM) regulates animal health and nutritional supplements, and follows the law established in the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act regarding product claims in order to protect consumers and animals. The good news is the majority of pet supplement suppliers understand and follow these rules and are careful to make credible claims allowable by law. Many of these suppliers are members of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) and have access to straightforward labeling guidance that helps them follow the law and avoid making errant or egregious claims.
That said, keep a careful eye out for suppliers that disregard FDA-CVM rules for product claims. They are fairly easy to spot when you know what to look for:
- Words that state or imply the product will treat, prevent, cure or mitigate a disease. Example: “Aids against UTIs and bladder infections”
- Use of any disease name or reference to a disease. Example: “Fights gingivitis and periodontal disease.”
- Any stated or implied comparison to, or replacement for, pharmaceuticals. Example: “Reduces the need for prescription pain medication.”
- Any reference to a chronic condition. Example: “Protects against chronic pain and inflammation.”
- Claims disguised as product names. Example: “Inflamm-Away”
Product and brand marketing are an extension of the label and therefore are subject to the same rules. Apply the same cautious scrutiny when visiting a product website that you do when looking at the packaging. This also applies to internet advertising, trade show materials, social media posts, blogs, e-newsletters and promotional videos, as well as traditional advertising like radio, TV and print ads.
Allowable or “good” claims on supplement products and marketing materials are typically simple and concise. They communicate that the product is helping to support the normal structure and function of the animal’s body rather than trying to correct an abnormal condition or disease. And perhaps most important, allowable claims don’t rely on absolutes or language that over-promises outcomes.
Examples of allowable product claims:
- “Helps to support cognitive function”
- “Provides antioxidant protection”
- “Helps to maintain calmness”
- “Promotes digestive tract health”
When evaluating supplements, look for products with the NASC Quality Seal to know you’re working with responsible suppliers that produce and market their products within the bounds of the law, and maintain ongoing compliance with NASC’s rigorous standards for product quality and consistency. Remember, if a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Supplements are not magic bullets however they can play an important role in supporting animal health when given as an element of care along with quality nutrition, regular exercise, routine veterinary visits, and a loving home.