The New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office sent cease and desist letters to four retailers (GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart) and subpoenas to manufacturers (Nature Made brand; NBTV Inc. of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., maker of Sundown Naturals, Nature’s Bounty, Vitamin World and other brands; Nature’s Way Products Inc. of Lehi, Utah, maker of Nature’s Way brand; and Nutraceutical Corp. of Park City, Utah, maker of Herbs for Kids and other brands) demanding evidence for health claims printed on labels of dietary supplements. In February 2015, the AG announced that DNA barcoding tests commissioned by his office on six popular herbal supplements found that of hundreds of bottles tested, 4 out of 5 contained none of the herbs listed on the labels. The supplements tested included ginseng, touted as an energy booster; Echinacea, marketed as a cold remedy; St. John’s Wort, used for depression; and ginkgo biloba, used for memory problems.
As the New York Times reports:
Among the attorney general’s findings was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens, promoted for “physical endurance and vitality,” that contained only powdered garlic and rice. At Walmart, the authorities found that its ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat — despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free.
Three out of six herbal products at Target — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid — tested negative for the herbs on their labels. But they did contain powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. And at GNC, the agency said, it found pills with unlisted ingredients used as fillers, like powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, a hazard for people with allergies.
Consumer and consumer groups have initiated lawsuits. If you think you may have purchased an herbal supplement that has made false claims, please contact us to learn more about your legal rights.
UPDATE: The New York Attorney General announced an agreement with GNC to implement new standards in authenticating new herbal supplements, ensuring their purity, and educating consumers about their chemical content.