On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that the DNA tests commissioned by his office showed that hundreds of dietary supplements sold by Walmart, GNC, Target and Walgreens did not contain the herbs listed on their labels.
For instance, an echinacea-based supplement commercialized by Walmart had no genetic traces of echinacea in it. People use Echinacea because it is said to boost the immune system and ward off against colds during the winter season.
Also, some GNG supplements designed to help fight depression had no trace of St. John’s wort. Instead it held other plants such as garlic, rice, and houseplants.
The DNA tests revealed that nearly four out of five herbal supplements were mislabeled and stuffed with cheaper herbs such as rice, wheat or houseplants.
Eric Schneiderman reported that his office already issued letters to the four major department stores to stop selling the herbal supplements.
The New York Attorney General explained that mislabeled products may harm people who have allergies or take certain drugs that may interact with the components not listed on the packages.
This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: The old adage ‘buyer beware’ may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements,”
Mr. Schneiderman added.
The industry challenged the findings by saying that the DNA testing alone was not reliable since much of a plant’s DNA can be altered or completely lost during manufacturing. Steve Mister, CEO of a dietary supplement group, explained that, in this case, DNA tests must be backed by chromatography or microscopy analysis.
Still, the four stores announced that they would comply with the attorney general’s request and remove the products from sale in the New York state.
Walmart reported that its suppliers’ testing hadn’t revealed any issue with the products and promised that they would perform a side-by-side analysis for the sake of their consumers.
Walgreen announced that they were in the process of removing the products from their shelves, but they would also review the matter further.
GNC is also banning the product from sale in NY, although the store announced that it would stand by “the quality, purity and potency of all ingredients listed on the labels” of their private-label herbal supplements.
Target refused to comment until a full review of the report was completed.
In 2013, a report released by the Canadian government showed that more than 150 million Americans use dietary supplements, while only in the U.S. there are nearly 65,000 products on sale. An independent agency estimated the dietary supplement market in the U.S. at $6 billion per year.
Image Source: National Discount Vitamins