Cease-and-desist letters were sent to GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart by Attorney General of New York, Eric Schneiderman, demanding the retailers explain how they verify the ingredients in their herbal supplements.
Authorities said DNA testing revealed herbal supplements such as ginseng and gingko Biloba sold at the major retailers contained dangerous ingredients, including potential allergens, not listed on the packaging.
Out of 24 products tested, all but five contained DNA that was either unrecognizable or from a plant not included on a products’ ingredient list.
Investigators tested the products using a process called DNA barcoding, which assesses the ingredients through their genetic makeup. The Food and Drug Administration has used bar-coding technology to warn and in some cases prosecute sellers of seafood found to be “misbranded.” The DNA technique has also been used in studies of herbal tea, which showed that a significant percentage contain herbs and ingredients that are not listed on their labels.
In the meantime, the herbal supplements industry is lashing out against fraud claims of “mislabeling, contamination and false advertising.”
The dietary supplement industry takes issue with DNA testing and some consumer advocacy groups say the method by itself is inadequate because it cannot detect the most serious problems with supplements – contamination with heavy metals or chemical adulterants.
This investigation highlights problems plaguing regulatory loopholes in the dietary supplement industry. The FDA requires that companies test the products they sell to make sure that they are safe. But the system essentially operates on the honor code. Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are generally considered safe until proven otherwise.
There is a lot at stake. More than 150 million Americans contribute to the $6 billion dollar herbal supplement industry. With more than 65-thousand dietary supplements on the market, officials say that lax oversight can have serious public health consequences.
If you or someone you love has been injured by taking herbal supplements, contact our law firm. We are prepared to help you seek justice against the health food industry.
Inkelaar Law is exploring and investigating potential class actions surrounding these supplements. If you or someone you love has purchased these products from these retailers, you should contact an attorney.
Call 1-877-537-4665 or use the online contact form.