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Major retailers’ herbal pills called into question

Annie Baxter Feb 3, 2015
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Major retailers’ herbal pills called into question

Annie Baxter Feb 3, 2015
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The New York attorney general’s office is asking four big retailers to pull some of their private label herbal supplements from store shelves due to what it says is fraudulent labeling. The office focused on GNC, Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreens.

Researchers for the attorney general went to a few of those retailers’ stores in New York state, rounded up a couple of their popular store-brand supplements, and then conducted DNA tests to see if the ingredients matched the labels.

Supplements at Wal-Mart, which were supposed to contain ginkgo biloba, thought to be a memory booster, did not appear to have any of the plant’s material, but instead contained fillers like powdered radish and wheat — a potential issue for people allergic to gluten.

Tests on the other retailers’ private label supplements yielded similar results for herbs such as St. John’s wort and valerian root.

The findings may resonate with health experts who’ve sounded alarms about weak federal oversight of the health supplement industry. Herbal supplements, unlike prescription medications, do not require pre-marketing approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The New York attorney general is asking the retailers to stop selling the products in question and provide information on the products’ manufacturers, along with any relevant quality control testing results.

Wal-Mart says it wants customers “to have complete trust in the products they buy from our stores.” The company will reach out to its suppliers and “take appropriate action.” But it has no plans to pull the products at this time.

GNC says it will cooperate with the attorney general but that the company stands behind the quality of its private label products and that it does test them.

Target says it has not yet seen the full report and “can’t comment other than to reiterate that Target is committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests.”

Walgreens says it is removing the products from its shelves as a precautionary measure as it reviews the matter further. The company intends to “cooperate and work with the attorney general.”

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