This has to be the shocking news of the day. Herbal supplements are not living up to the claims they make. I know, I’m sitting down for this news too. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is launching an investigation that involves DNA testing of popular herbal supplements.

Letters were sent to Wal-Mart, GNC, Target and Walgreen’s concerning supplements not containing the ingredients listed on the label. Check your medicine cabinet for ginseng, echinacea, St. John’s wort, saw palmetto, garlic and ginkgo biloba. Garlic pills with no garlic. Why not?

“This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: The old adage ‘buyer beware’ may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements,” Schneiderman said.

DNA testing found just 21 percent of the products tested had the correct ingredients listed on the label. The poorest retailers? Sorry, Walmart. The company’s products only scored a 4 percent. Always low prices must mean random ingredients.

A large percentage of the products tested had zero measurable botanical ingredient. Instead, fillers such as rice, pine, citrus, wild carrots and primrose were found. The bright side of this is you are getting your carrots.

GNC was quick to respond with a statement standing by it products. “We stand by the quality, purity and potency of all ingredients listed on the labels of our private label products,” said GNC spokeswoman Laura Brophy. “We will certainly cooperate with the attorney general’s office in all appropriate ways.”

The major problem with this is the potential for allergies. Consumers may use one of the mislabeled supplements thinking it contains one thing, only to have a reaction to the filler ingredient.

Regulations of the industry is sparse. The FDA requires the manufacturer to verify the products are safe and properly labeled, but enforcement is lacking. The industry as a whole is not subject to the same rigorous regulation the pharmaceutical industry is.

Should it be? After the DNA testing, it’s a conversation worth having. We do not want people dropping at home because they thought they were taking a garlic supplement and it turned out to be something else.


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