Dry labbing, a practice whereby research or analysis is claimed to be done, but in reality the conclusions are guessed at or copied from other sources without actually doing any analysis, has been an issue that has gained national mainstream attention with a Dateline NBC exposé on the issue in March 2012.
Despite media attention, both mainstream and trade press, the practice continues within the dietary supplements industry, said Darryl Sullivan, director of scientific and regulatory affairs for Nutritional Chemistry and Food Safety at Covance Laboratories. “Unfortunately, there is a market for it,” he said.
“The companies who are using dry labs know what they are doing, and they are partnering with these laboratories for cost and/or the passing results they always provide,” said Ed Wyszumiala, president of Wysz Consulting Solutions. “Unfortunately, for every dry lab that is found, another is out there still doing business.”
An infection in the industry
Putting a number on the problem is difficult, however. “I have no direct data on ‘dry labbing’ rather only a strong suspicion that ‘dry labbing’ still exists and is unfortunately perpetuated by the dietary supplement industry itself,” said Elan Sudberg, CEO of Alkemist Labs. “Value propositions in the order of turnaround time, price and then quality support this infection in our industry. It thrives off customers who only care about quick results and cheap tests.
“Cheaters will always cheat and have been called out and known throughout my nearly 18 year stint in the dietary supplement industry. They simply change their company names and location and continue to ‘not test’.
“Most players in this industry know such practice exists and have the tools and resources needed to identify a dry lab. Unfortunately, new players might fall victim to these predators of trust which I why this and other articles are important.”
Tackling the problem requires a multi-faceted approach, according to the experts. Covance’s Sullivan calls for stronger regulatory actions taken with these labs, or industry groups to publicly comment on not using these labs.
Some regulatory action has been taken, such as Health Canada suspending the Establishment License of Chemi Pharmaceutical Inc. after finding falsified test results, but such actions are few and far between. The solutions appear to rest firmly with the industry itself.