Dietary supplements are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they reach the market. This means the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring products are properly labeled and safe. Unfortunately, mislabeled and contaminated (or adulterated) products are not uncommon. Some contain substances not allowed in dietary supplements or substances prohibited for use by Service Members. Consuming such products could pose risks, such as:

  • Positive drug tests
  • Adverse health effects
  • Negative effects on performance
  • Consequences to your military career

Knowing what is actually in a product before you consider buying or using a dietary supplement should reduce these risks.

The only way to know the actual ingredients (or their amounts) in a dietary supplement product is through laboratory testing.  Ensure a product has been tested by a well-vetted, independent, third-party organization.

What is third-party certification?

Third-party certification means an independent organization with no ties to the manufacturing company has evaluated a dietary supplement and verified its quality and manufacturing process. Once the product is verified, a manufacturer can put the third-party program certification or verification seal on their product. Third-party certification does not mean the product has been evaluated for safety (whether it could cause an adverse event) or effectiveness (whether it works the way it is claimed to). It means the product content and label match.

What do third-party organizations test for?

A number of organizations offer third-party certification, but each has its own approach and list of substances they test for in dietary supplements. The only published standard for third-party certification is NSF/ANSI 173-2021, so it is likely not all organizations meet these certification guidelines.

This article specifically highlights 4 well-vetted third-party certification programs. Of these programs, 3 test for substances prohibited for use in sport, such as anabolic agents, beta-2 agonists, hormone modulators, narcotics, SARMs, stimulants, and more (see specific websites below for additional information). The other program does not test for substances banned in sport, but it does verify the ingredients and their amounts found in the product and ensure it is free from contaminants. This table highlights additional information about these third-party certification programs:

Do they test for substances prohibited in sport? Yes: BSCG Certified Drug Free, Informed Sport. No: NSF, USP Verified Do they test for contaminants? Manufacturers can pay extra, but not included automatically: BSCG Certified Drug Free. Yes: NSF, USP Verified. No: Informed Sport How often do they test a product? BSCG Certified Drug Free: Every Lot, Informed Sport: Every Batch, NSF: Lots listed on NSF website

Bottom line

It’s important to look for third-party certified dietary supplement products. Look for these seals:  

In addition, always check to make sure none of the ingredients listed on the product label are included on the DoD Prohibited Dietary Supplement Ingredients List. You can also use the OPSS Scorecard to help minimize the risk of an adverse event or positive drug test.

Related Reading

Consensus statement from the Uniformed Services University, United States Anti-Doping Agency, UFC, Major League Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Players Association


Updated 29 May 2024


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