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Should you buy supplements on Amazon?

Updated: Jan 8

Amazon is one of, if not the largest, seller of dietary supplements worldwide. While it can be easy to order supplements off Amazon, most people do not realize they are rolling the dice with their health.

Roll of the dice

When you go to a store, usually, they receive products from a manufacturer or distributor and then sell them to the public. This is how most people picture buying things from an online retailer. Unfortunately, with Amazon, this is often not the case.

On Amazon, multiple sellers can send in the same product, such as the manufacturer and various third parties, which are all mixed in the same bin. So, while it may be listed as from the manufacturer, it could be from many places.

While this may not seem like a big deal, it's truly a huge problem. Mixed in with those products from the manufacturer could be counterfeit or adulterated products. If you get a counterfeit t-shirt or purse, you might be out a few dollars, but it is not dangerous to your health. When you ingest or put an adulterated or contaminated product on your skin, at best, it will do nothing, and at worst, it could be hazardous if it has a prescription drug or allergen in it. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if it was one of the adulterated products or the right one from the manufacturer. Imagine if we let random people send us products and put them on our website without checking them. That would be insanity, but that’s Amazon.

Here are just a few examples of big supplement companies that recently found counterfeits of their products on Amazon:

Counterfeit Ayush Herbs Carditone

This is just a tiny sampling. Most companies do not check their products on Amazon to see if there are counterfeit versions. The surface has only been scratched on this enormous problem, and more testing will reveal countless more examples of counterfeit products sold on the website.

Amazon also has a huge supplement adulteration problem. For example, these top-selling supplements on Amazon contained prescription drugs. If someone has a heart problem, takes prescription nitrates, and takes one of those products contaminated with Viagra, it could lead to serious health problems, including a heart attack.

The FDA purchased and tested twenty-six weight loss and male enhancement products off Amazon and found that 80% were contaminated with prescription drugs. This means eight out of ten people who purchased those products were given prescription drugs without their knowledge, putting their health in extreme danger. Would you buy products at a store with a significant chance of getting a product often adulterated with dangerous ingredients?

The number of supplements found to contain prescription drugs on Amazon is astounding. It would take a whole book to list them all.

Another issue is products containing far less than what they claimed on the label or even none of the claimed ingredients. The more expensive the raw material, the more likely it will happen.

Here are a few examples of this.

Bromelain - 15 of 20 products failed testing. Only six of the twenty samples had at least fifty percent of the amount claimed on the label. Testing was done by Venture Labs.

Astaxanthin - 14 of 22 products failed testing. Thirteen of the fourteen failures had less than one milligram of Astaxanthin. Testing was done by Alkemist Labs.

Quercetin - 20 of 24 products failed potency testing. Two brands used gelatin capsules when they claimed vegetarian capsules. Testing was done by Eurofins.

Coq10 - Out of eight brands, four were improperly labeled to make it appear that they had more coq10 than they did, while three failed potency tests. Testing was done by Eurofins.

Berberine (products from Amazon and Walmart) - 18 of 33 brands contained less than forty percent of the claimed amounts on the label. 7 of 33 had less than one percent of claimed label amounts. Testing was done by Alkemist Labs.

Alpha Lipoic Acid - 8 of 13 products had less than ninety percent of label claims. Testing was done by Eurofins.

Phosphatidylserine - 36 of 43 brands failed testing, with seventeen containing less than ten percent of label claims. Two were found to be spiked with serine to cheat the test results. Testing was done by Eurofins.

Turmeric/Curcumin - 12 out of 25 tested products failed for potency, containing synthetic curcuminoids, heavy metals, or used gelatin caps instead of the claimed veggie caps. Four products contained “fossil fuel derived organic carbon,” a marker for synthetic curcumin. Testing done by Eurofins and the University of Georgia’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies.

The test results with brands and testing methods are too large to post in the article. Email us if you want to see the test results on any of the above categories, and we can send you the data.

This is just a tiny sampling of poor-quality products on Amazon. Countless investigations are going on into supplements sold on Amazon. It would not be possible for us to list them all. While many products seem like a good deal, low cost usually means low quality.

Quality versus cost

One of the reasons for all of these adulterated and counterfeit product problems is how much money it costs companies to sell on Amazon.

Amazon forces companies to give them the most favorable selling status (we cannot recommend this article enough if you want to learn how bad Amazon has made things). This means they cannot sell the product for a lower price anywhere else than on Amazon. This practice drives up costs everywhere else.

When the companies have to give Amazon so much of their profits, they have to cut costs elsewhere, and in nearly all circumstances, it comes out of product quality.

Price increases

A big thank you to Amazon for making prices go up everywhere.

Another issue that arises is with product reviews. Many people rely on reviews to make decisions on whether to buy a product or not. However, using reviews on Amazon is a terrible idea. There are four main problems with Amazon Reviews.

The first is fake reviews. Fake reviews abound on Amazon. In 2020, it was found that nearly forty-two percent of Amazon reviews were fake.

The second problem is review jacking. Review jacking is where a company changes the product sold in the listing but leaves up the reviews for the original product, even though the new product is substantially different from the old product. The Bountiful Company, which consists of brands such as Nature’s Bounty, Ester-C, American Health, Sundown, and a lot more (The Bountiful Company and its brands are now owned by Nestle.), was fined 600,000 dollars for using this practice.

The third problem is paid positive reviews. Companies often give coupons, refunds, or free products to get people to provide them with a good review. Amazon says this practice is illegal, but companies do it all the time. The sellers even provide detailed instructions on how to evade Amazon’s attempt to stop fake reviews. They can even purchase a service from unscrupulous companies to boost their brand's positive reviews, but they are all fake. We will not link to those companies for obvious reasons.

The fourth problem is paid negative reviews. Competitors can pay for a service in which companies post a lot of fake negative reviews about their competition's products, thereby pushing down their ratings. We are not going to link to those companies for obvious reasons.

If you use reviews on Amazon to guide your purchases, it might be time to rethink that strategy.

Product Reviews

Product reviews are a problem all over the internet, not just on Amazon; don't rely on them.

Another big issue with buying products of Amazon is temperature control. Supplements and foods generally have a temperature range in which they need to be stored. Most Amazon warehouses lack proper climate controls, despite the company's claims. When supplements are held at a high temperature and humidity, it can cause them to degrade. For example, we keep our warehouse around seventy degrees for this reason.

Returned products are another big problem. Imagine you live in Arizona, and it's summertime. You order a probiotic supplement. You pick up your order from an Amazon locker and drive home. You forget about it and leave it in your car for a few days. It gets well over one hundred degrees in that car. People were even baking cookies in their cars this summer. Now you decide you don’t want to take it anymore and send it back to Amazon. That probiotic goes back into inventory and gets sold to someone else, even though the product will be significantly compromised. This type of storage issue is why we do not resell or restock any product returns.

Next up is our personal experience consulting with supplement companies that currently sell on Amazon. Many of you may not be aware, but Rooted Nutrition has an extensive consulting division where we help supplement companies comply with FDA and FTC regulations, quality control, product formulation, raw material sourcing, and anything else to do with making a supplement from start to finish.

Many of these companies that approach us have zero experience in the supplement industry. All they know is that selling supplements on Amazon is a great way to make money quickly. These companies are coming to us after selling thousands of bottles on Amazon already.

When we start to dig into each of these companies that come to us for consulting, they rarely have any quality control program (occasionally, they have a mess of one that covers virtually nothing) in place. Most call contract manufacturers and have them quickly make a product or private label one for them (also called white labeling). Then, they have a batch of it shipped to Amazon and start selling. Well, this is horrifying on so many levels.

Companies are required by law (even though the FDA lacks the funds and personnel to enforce all the regulations properly) to have and follow a robust quality control program. You can have all the laws and regulations you want, but they don’t matter if they are not enforced. The FDA admits that they have no way of knowing all of the products on the market, and they inspect less than fifty percent of manufacturers each year. Overseas manufacturers are inspected far less than the already low number of domestic manufacturers. That’s why we laugh when supplement companies claim the industry is well-regulated.

Most of these companies accept whatever their contract manufacturer or raw material suppliers tell them. This is entirely unacceptable. These contract manufacturers don't even know what they are doing half the time and often give the buyers incorrect information. However, these companies looking to make a fast buck on Amazon don't know what they should be doing, so they don't question it.

The contract manufacturer gives the buyer's test results, but since they have no experience in the supplement industry, they have no idea whether they are correctly done, using the proper testing methods and testing for the right things.

Many of them buy raw materials from Alibaba, which is a cesspool of adulterated and contaminated materials.

We recently had a client who got test results on a batch of material with very high levels of coliform, a bacteria from feces. However, the raw material supplier and the contract manufacturer said it was fine. A supplement should never have high coliform levels; it can make people extremely sick. Thankfully, they came to us before the product was manufactured, and we were able to stop it from being sold and get them their money back.

Another issue that comes up a lot is dry labbing. This is a practice where a company needs test results that show the product is good, and the lab writes whatever they want on the certificate without testing the product. This is how many companies get around Amazon’s new testing requirements.

Altered certificates are another problem. Companies will take a testing certificate from another product or brand and then alter it to make it appear to have been done on their product. This is far more widespread than most people realize.

This is just a tiny sampling of the problems in making many of the products you see on Amazon, especially those priced in a way that seems too good to be true. Companies must use cheap raw materials to keep the price down to be competitive on Amazon. Otherwise, their products will appear much more expensive because their competitors use poor quality materials.

While this article focused on Amazon, many of these issues are problematic on other websites that allow third-party sellers, such as eBay and Walmart, but do not get as much press. There is simply no way for companies to properly test and vet the volume of products sold and the sellers who sell them without massive price increases because the cost would be astronomical, which is why it will never happen.

Are you willing to roll the dice on your health just for a bit of convenience?

If you have questions about our supplements, we would be happy to answer them. Feel free to email us at, and we will do our best to get you the information you need.


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