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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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What is the difference between a dietary supplement and a conventional food?

Conventional foods are foods that are not dietary supplements. A dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that is intended to supplement the diet and that contains one or more "dietary ingredients." The "dietary ingredients" in these products may include

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • herbs or other botanicals
  • amino acids
  • other substances found in the human diet, such as enzymes

Dietary supplements must be labeled as such and must not be represented for use as a conventional food or as the sole item of a meal or the diet. One way to distinguish dietary supplements from conventional foods is by looking at the nutrition information on the label of the product. Conventional foods must have a "Nutrition Facts" panel on their labels, but dietary supplements must have a "Supplement Facts" panel.

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