FDA warns companies are slipping risky chemical into dietary supplements

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers that some dietary supplement companies are including a new dietary ingredient in their products that hasn't been approved by the agency or demonstrated as safe. Likewise, this compound is sometimes marketed with false and dangerous claims that it may treat cancer, putting patients at risk of avoiding proven medical treatments that may save their lives.

Potentially deadly ingredient

The compound that prompted the warning is called cesium chloride, which the FDA designates a 'new dietary ingredient' because it was only marketed in the US at some point after 1994. Under its regulations, the FDA says that new dietary ingredients must have either been found in the food supply in a non-chemically altered form or there must be some kind of proof that using cesium chloride as it is advertised is reasonably safe.

The agency says that cesium chloride meets neither of these conditions and as such, dietary supplements that feature this compound are considered 'adulterated.' Likewise, the FDA warns that this compound has never been proven safe or effective for any use, including for treating cancer as some sellers have claimed.

Linked health risks

Back in February, the FDA issued a public health alert warning the public to avoid dietary supplements that include cesium salts, the primary one being cesium chloride. According to the agency, these salts present 'significant safety risks,' including the potential for heart toxicity and even death.

Issues that have been linked to supplements containing these salts include deadly cardiac arrhythmias, low potassium, fainting, and seizures, the FDA says. If there's any upside to the news, it's that the FDA says at this point in time, it seems only a small number of dietary supplements are including these salts.

Going forward

Going forward, the FDA says that it will give companies found in violation of its regulations regarding marketing these supplements 15 working days to explain how they will correct their violations. In cases where a company fails to correct the issue, the FDA says that it may proceed with legal action and seize the product.

In a statement, the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition director Steven Tave said:

The FDA will continue to take action against dietary supplements that contain cesium chloride because of significant safety concerns—including heart toxicity and potential death—associated with this ingredient. We take very seriously our role to protect the public from dangerous dietary supplements.