Wednesday, February 4, 2015
NY Attorney General Accuses Major Retailers of Selling Fraudulent Herbal Supplements
February 3rd, 2015/
The New York State Attorney General on Monday accused four major retailers of selling adulterated and/or mislabeled dietary supplements. GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart were told to stop selling the products in the state, The New York Times reports.
State authorities said they had conducted tests on products including echinacea, ginseng and St. John’s wort. They found many products did not contain any of the herbs listed on the label. In many cases, pills labeled medicinal herbs mostly consisted of powdered rice, houseplants and asparagus, the article notes. Some pills contained substances that could be dangerous for people with allergies. For example, one product sold at Walmart as ginko bilboa contained wheat, even though the label said the product contained no wheat or gluten. Some GNC products had pills that contained powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans.
Dietary supplements are exempt from the strict regulatory oversight required for prescription medications, the article notes. The move by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was the first time a law enforcement agency had threatened large retail and drugstore chains with legal action for selling what he called deliberately misleading herbal products.
“This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: the old adage ‘buyer beware’ may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements,” Schneiderman said in a news release. “The DNA test results seem to confirm long-standing questions about the herbal supplement industry. Mislabeling, contamination, and false advertising are illegal. They also pose unacceptable risks to New York families—especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients.”
Walgreens said it would remove the products from its shelves nationwide, while Walmart said it would “take appropriate action.” GNC said it would cooperate with the Attorney General “in all appropriate ways,” but said it stood behind the quality and purity of its products. Target did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.