It wasn’t so long ago in the US that I would have not been surprised to see a claim like that. There are still plenty of ads for human supplements out there making all kinds of outrageous claims. The fact is that supplements are not drugs, they don’t work like a lightbulb but to our amazement many people will still kiss a frog and expect it to turn into a Prince.
Going back a few years in the US we had incomprehensible labels and no effective regulatory oversight. I can well remember my astonishment when a certain brand announced “Guaranteed results in 5 Days” with a joint supplement and thousands of people bought the product, which was basically full of pain blocking agents. I have since spoken with dozens of people who subsequently discovered that their horse’s initial problem was much worse because all they had done was mask the pain, with nothing in the product that actually supported joint and soft tissue health.
Back in 1999 we tested 32 joint supplements and found that only 2 matched the label claim so you can imagine that we were a bit disturbed and frankly angry that we were competing against companies that were, shall we say , ethically challenged. This caused us to start an organization called the National Association of Equine Supplement Manufacturers or NAESM. The goal was to try to bring together manufacturers and to develop standards for labeling, claims and manufacturing standards. At that time there was very little response and only a handful of companies expressed any interest. Not long after that, at a State level, there was a big push to ban the sales of all the nutraceutical type ingredients, like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, as they were not “approved” feed ingredients. Suddenly I was getting e-mails from lots of companies, freaking out about this threat and ultimately that resulted in the formation of the National Animal Supplement Council (www.nasc.cc). Grand Meadows was the only equine supplement manufacturer involved when the NASC was formed, and we have played a huge role in developing the strict standards now required of NASC members from labels to manufacturing standards. When you look at animal health supplements in the US, you can now read and understand what is actually in the product without a calculator – what a novel concept! Be assured that those changes took a lot of time and effort and many companies were reluctant to get involved under the premise if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
As we as a company expand into new foreign markets we see the same issues we had in the US, incomprehensible labels, fairy dusting of ingredients and we are always surprised that manufacturers can get away with a smoke and mirrors approach to product information. I have visited dozens of websites where the product details are basically a loose statement about various ingredients with no indication whatsoever as to the actual levels per serving that the product delivers or they are expressed in such a way that you have to do some maths to figure it out. Another classic disingenuous trick that I still see in the US, as well as abroad, is companies listing the loading dose on the ingredient analysis on the label and the number of servings claimed is based on the maintenance dose or half of what is listed on the label. So people end up paying twice as much or end up feeding half what they think is the level of active ingredients.
I advise people that they need to treat buying a supplement like buying a used car from the salesman in the loud plaid jacket. Ask questions, kick the tires – don’t accept vague answers.
We have been passionately following a strict set of manufacturing and labeling standards since we opened for business in 1984, long before there was even any discussion on the vagaries of the supplements industry. We did this for one simple reason it is the right thing to do, it is incomprehensible to us that one would promote and sell a product that was intrinsically flawed. We encourage our customers to go out and compare when they can, because we want them to make an informed decision when they buy a product for their much loved horse.
So put on your specs, read the small print and we are sad to tell you that there are in fact no flying pink pigs!