Calloway Cook is the President of Illuminate Labs
Most people who have a daily supplement stack have heard of the two biggest supplement testing and review sites, ConsumerLab and LabDoor. Both companies claim to test off-the-shelf supplements for purity and label accuracy.
ConsumerLab is run by scientists who are listed publicly on their site, but not much is known about LabDoor. The purpose of this review is to examine and analyze whether LabDoor is a reputable source of information for consumers looking to make informed decisions about their supplements.
1. Credentials (or Lack Thereof)
Labdoor’s About Us page doesn’t mention a single member of the company. This is a red flag, not only for obvious reasons, but especially because credentials matter for a consumer testing service. Testing supplements for label accuracy and purity is complex. We know because it’s the backbone of our company. Even though they claim to send off products to an “FDA-registered laboratory,” if there is no credentialed scientist on their staff it’s unclear how they determine what to test against (more on that later).
A California Secretary of State Corporations search reveals that the President of Labdoor is named Neil Thanedar. His website lists him as an entrepreneur and activist, which is great, but doesn’t have any mention of relevant scientific credentials.
2. Scoring Process
There are five scoring categories for products that Labdoor assigns a score out of 100: Label Accuracy, Product Purity, Nutritional Value, Ingredient Safety, and Projected Efficacy. But the overall "Labdoor Score" for the product is not simply the average of these scores, and it's not explained anywhere how they weight the categories for overall scoring. This leads to confusing results like for this Pure Science brand supplement which has a Labdoor Score of 93.6 but a label accuracy score of 9. How can a product get a fantastic overall score without being accurately labeled? Your guess is as good as mine.
3. Labdoor Testing Methodology (or Lack Thereof)
Here’s where things get weird. First, Labdoor publishes none of the actual test result documents or the specific laboratories that conduct the testing. Their rankings make zero sense to anyone with even a college-level understanding of nutritional science or manufacturing.
Their review of One A Day Men’s VitaCraves multivitamin is a perfect example. It gives the product a “Label Accuracy” score of 32 out of 100, which as a consumer sounds alarming. It sounds as though the product doesn’t have what it claims on the Supplement Facts label. But when you read their “Report” (you’ll need to create a free account to do so), you see that the multivitamin in fact has all of the listed vitamins in slight excess of the label claim.
Labdoor apparently deducts points for companies with slight overages in nutrient levels, not understanding that a manufacturing overage is very common (especially with supplements) to ensure that the label claim is satisfactorily met. This means that if you’re manufacturing a product with 1000 mg of Vitamin C, you actually manufacture, say, 1100 mg of Vitamin C to ensure that even if some is lost during the physical manufacturing process, the finished product still meets the Supplement Facts label claim.
Let’s take another, even crazier example of how little sense their rankings make. Here’s a review of a product called NOW Foods Panax Ginseng. It’s assigned a Label Accuracy score of 0. Again, to any rational consumer this would indicate that the product does not have any of the active ingredient(s). However their own report proves exactly the opposite. The product has 10.7 mg of ginsenoside (which is the active phytochemical in ginseng) based on their testing. Labdoor gives the product a Label Accuracy rank of 0 because “This product claims 1000 mg of ginseng root extract per serving but does not specify its ginsenoside content.”
So basically Labdoor is saying: “this is ginseng but not standardized ginseng so we’re going to give it an accuracy score of zero.” But the product’s label doesn’t make the claim that it’s standardized -- it’s a generic extract! The label claims that the product is ginseng. Labdoor’s test confirms that the product is ginseng. The label accuracy score should be 100. It’s unclear why the Label Accuracy ranking is based on an arbitrary phytochemical level and not, you know, whether the label is accurate or not. My guess is a woeful lack of understanding of the science behind supplement formulation.
4. Out-of-Date Data
Every Labdoor Report I’ve come across (including all three mentioned in this review) either was from a test in 2017 or earlier, or the test date is unmentioned. Since supplement test results can vary wildly batch-to-batch, this makes nearly all of the data on the site out-of-date. The same products which are reviewed on their site will currently be selling a new product batch (since we’re almost four years past most of Labdoor’s testing dates) with different label accuracy and contaminant levels.
Test reporting per batch is extremely important for consumer safety which is why Illuminate Labs has a third-party, non-profit laboratory test every single batch of our finished product against European Union (E.U.) contaminant limits.
5. Business Model Concerns
It’s important to understand how a company makes money in the absence of complete information (raw testing data), to interpret their decision-making and transparency. Labdoor is an affiliate-marketing company. They make money when you purchase a product by clicking on a link from their site. They also make money by offering testing services to supplement companies, but it’s safe to assume that most of their revenue comes from affiliate sales, given that very few of their product reviews cover products which have opted into their testing services.
This explains why accurate or updated testing isn’t necessarily their primary focus -- having a resource page with the most potential products makes them the most money. Testing products annually only stands to lose them money. I would still suggest that Labdoor release the actual test result documents from the tests they have performed, for the sake of transparency. We publish raw data from our third-party laboratory partner on all of our products which pass testing. If they don’t pass testing, we don’t sell them.
If you’ve made it this far, hopefully I’ve changed your mind about using LabDoor. As a consumer, don’t trust any supplement company or review site that won’t share the actual product test results with you. Unfortunately there are widespread unethical practices in the U.S. supplement market because there is so much money to be made and a low level of general consumer understanding of the science. We hope to change that.