The New York Attorney General has sent “cease-and-desist” letters to GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart, demanding that they remove certain herbal supplements from NY stores. The letters cite independent tests that showed the supplements do not contain the plant materials that are listed on their labels.
According to the tests, only 21% of the tested material contained DNA from plants matching the labels. The products contained, instead, worthless or potentially harmful contaminants, such as rice powder and house plant DNA.
The AG hired Dr. James A. Schulte II of Clarkson University, an expert in DNA barcoding, to examine the contents of herbal supplements labeled as Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Garlic, Echinacea, Saw Palmetto, and Valerian Root.
According to the AG press release, the tests confirmed their suspicions:
“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.”
Of all the tests, only 21% confirmed DNA barcodes from the plants on the labels. Plants that were not on the labels were found in 35% of the products tested and a significant number showed no plant matter of any kind. Some of the filler and contaminants identified were rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, wild carrot, and various houseplants.
Consumers in the U.S. spend an estimated $61 billion dollars on dietary supplements annually.
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