There's a chemical lurking in diet supplements that could be dangerous to consumers, and health experts accuse the FDA of doing little, if anything, to remove it. The chemical, beta-methylphenethylamine or BMPEA, is similar to amphetamine, but its side effects have never been studied on humans, the New York Times reports. A new study, however, reveals the stimulant is included in 11 of 21 tested products—including JetFuel Superburn, Lipodrene Hardcore, and Black Widow—though it isn't listed on any labels. Instead, the product labels list acacia rigidula, a shrub found in Mexico and Texas. The FDA actually found BMPEA in nine supplements two years ago, but it has not identified or pulled the products as it "does not identify a specific safety concern at this time." Study author Pieter Cohen, meanwhile, tells USA Today the chemical could cause heart attacks, strokes, or even death.
The FDA now says it will "consider taking regulatory action, as appropriate, to protect consumers," but Cohen tells CBS News the agency "completely dropped the ball." All supplements containing BMPEA were removed from stores in Canada in December after health authorities described risks of raised blood pressure, "serious cardiovascular complications," and other issues, the Times reports. Why hasn't the FDA identified similar risks? Critics say it may be because some of the FDA's top regulators of the supplement industry have come from the Natural Products Association, which lobbies against laws that would impose tougher standards. One critic compares the situation to "the fox guarding the hen house."