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FDA gets tough on vitamins

The Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that manufacturers must have scientific proof of the benefits of dietary supplements _ vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutritional substances _ before they can make health claims on product labels.

The decision holds the dietary supplement industry to the same standards the agency set for health claims about food.

The new rules, which are subject to public comment before they become final in 60 days, mean scientific experts must agree about the value of a supplement before the manufacturer may place the information on a label.

The rules also will require labels for dietary supplements to carry the same kinds of nutritional information as processed foods, including the amount of nutrients in a serving and the percentage of daily requirements.

"FDA's goal is simple: We want people to have access to products that are safe, and we want to assure consumers that claims made about the health and nutritional benefits are truthful," FDA chief David Kessler said.

The action was praised by consumer groups, who have sought truth in advertising on the benefits of supplements, but it was criticized by the $4-billion-a-year supplement industry, which contends regulations "are choking off the flow of information to the public."

A growing body of research indicates vitamins can help prevent heart disease, some cancers and other conditions. But most of the studies are inconclusive.