GNC says it’s reached an agreement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to expand its testing deeper into its supply chain, to the sources of the ingredients for its dietary supplements. And it says it’s going to “enhance certain other aspects of its operations,” although it won’t say exact how it’ll do that.
The agreement follows an investigation by Schneiderman’s office. Schneiderman hired a lab to test the ingredients in dietary supplements sold at GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart. Schneiderman says, in some cases, the testing didn’t find any traces of DNA from the herbs listed on the supplements labels.
GNC criticized the testing methods used in the Schneiderman investigation, and it says sometimes, processing can remove DNA from the herbs used in supplements.
But supplements can be contaminated with things like metal.
“Mostly lead – that’s the most common contaminant,” says Tod Cooperman, head of ConsumerLab.com, a website for consumers that does its own testing. “Actually, we recently found arsenic, cadmium. So we do find heavy metals in products.”
Cooperman isn’t saying you shouldn’t buy these products. He just recommends being judicious: making sure they’re actually helping you, and not interfering with other medicines you’re taking.
The Food and Drug Administration does require supplement makers to verify that their products are safe and properly labeled. But they’re not evaluated or approved by the FDA, so it’s pretty much an honor system, even though Americans spend $33 billion a year on these products.
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