The vitamin supplements industry is "one of the safest industries that exist," despite lack of Food and Drug Administration oversight of its products, GNC Holdings CEO Joseph Fortunato told CNBC Tuesday.
"There have been roughly 4,000 'adverse event' reports under the reporting system in the last four years" against the industry selling vitamin, mineral, and other supplements, he said, "and if you look at the pharmaceuticals industry, they’ve had 475,000 in just one year...We have many, many ways to control the industry [and] the FDA has many ways to control the industry."
"We hope GNC leads the way" for the industry with its own good manufacturing practices, Fortunato added.
GNC , which went public a year ago at $16 a share, has continued to focus on growth in its Internet-based business, its international expansion and its consumer stores in the U.S., said Fortunato.
Competition comes from everywhere, he said, including specialty chain Vitamin Shoppe and more Main Street pharmacies such as Walgreen.
But they don't have a "global brand," he said.
"You can go to Walgreen and get a single commodity vitamin," he said. But customers at GNC are "high-end premium consumers, very passionate, very lifestyle driven," and generally "skew younger," he added, although Fortunato said he takes about 15 different supplements, including protein shakes and multivitamins.