Major National Retailers Ordered to Stop Selling Fraudulent Store-Brand Herbal Supplements

Major National Retailers Ordered to Stop Selling Fraudulent Store-Brand Herbal Supplements

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Instead of the herbs listed, many supplements were found to contain little more than powdered vegetables and wheat, as well as potential allergens.

Four major national retailers — Walmart, Target, GNC, and Walgreens — have been accused by The New York State attorney general’s office of selling “fraudulent and potentially dangerous” store-brand herbal supplements, reports The New York Times.

Quality tests conducted on these store-brand supplements found that four out of five store products did not actually contain the herbs on their labels, and instead often contained cheap fillers like powdered rice, houseplants, and “substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.”

As the investigation specifically targeted nationwide store brands, the findings indicate that the deceit goes far beyond New York.

At Walmart, for example, a supplement sold as the Chinese herb ginkgo biloba, which is thought to enhance memory, “contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants, and wheat — despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free.” At Target, three out of six products did not contain the herbs on their label — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, and valerian root — but did contain powdered rice, peas, and carrots.

Many medical and health professionals have long rallied for a more stringent process of quality control regarding dietary and herbal supplements, which are currently exempt from the regulatory process of prescription drugs.

The New York State attorney general has ordered all four retailers to remove all fraudulent products from store shelves, and submit detailed explanations of each company’s quality control process.

“Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal,” said Eric T. Schneiderman, the state attorney general. “They also pose unacceptable risks to New York families — especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients.”

Creighton R. Magid, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, commended the state attorney general for efficiently discrediting the supplements, even without FDA monitoring. 

“Attorney General Schneiderman is taking aim at these herbal supplements not by attacking their efficacy or health risk, which would be more difficult to prove, but by alleging false labeling something that can presumably be proved with a lab test to establish the actual ingredients," said Magid. 
“Unless the manufacturers or retailers can show that the ingredients of these products are as shown on the labels — and not merely powdered versions of a junior high lunch — these products will probably start disappearing from store shelves rather quickly." 
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