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Stores like Walmart, Target, GNC, Walgreens under fire, accused of selling bogus supplements

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Maybe they just forgot to add the gingko biloba? The New York Attorney General has ordered Walmart, GNC, Target and Walgreens to stop selling certain herbal supplements that it says don’t contain the herbal ingredient on the label, or contain only a small amount of it.

The demands came in cease and desist letters addressed to company executives that were dated Monday, February 2nd. The New York Times first reported the letters.

The letters included statements like: “No St. John’s Wort DNA was identified.” “No plant genetic material of any sort was identified in the product labeled Echinacea.” And some contained allergens like wheat that were not properly labeled.

The tests were performed on samples of gingko biloba, St. John’s Wort, ginseng, garlic, echinacea and saw palmetto supplements bought from stores in New York. Purchases were made from several stores and samples from each bottle were tested multiple times, according to the attorney general.

The cease and desist order applies only to specific lots of the supplements. But the letters also requested information about the manufacturers and testing procedures to support its “ongoing investigation of this matter.”

That investigation is “focused on what appears to be the practice of substituting contaminants and fillers in the place of authentic product,” the attorney general’s office said.

“It is our expectation that all suppliers conduct their business and produce products that are in full compliance with the law,” Walmart spokesman Brian Nick said. “Based on this notice, we are immediately reaching out to the suppliers of these products to learn more information and will take appropriate action.”

Target said it had not yet seen the full report but “is committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests.”

GNC disputed the accuracy of the testing process but said it would comply with the attorney general’s order to remove the products from New York shelves.

“We stand behind the quality, purity and potency of all ingredients listed on the labels of our private label products,” said Laura Brophy, a spokeswoman for GNC. “GNC tests all of its products using validated and widely used testing methods.”

Walgreens said it is removing the products from its shelves and takes the matter “very seriously.”

Regulators have long cast a skeptical eye towards herbal supplements, questioning the benefits they promise, but they’re subject to much less scrutiny than prescription and over-the-counter drugs.


  • Deb Ward (@DebWard628)

    “It is our expectation that all suppliers conduct their business and produce products that are in full compliance with the law,” But yet they allow meat, vegetables, and many other products to be sold that are full of GMOs…yeah, makes sense.

  • Laura Recek

    Did he go into Kinney Drugs, Price Chopper, Shop-Rite, Wegmens, Rite-Aid or any other local change that sell these products.

  • Catherine McDonald

    Which products? Do you realize how many brands are out there on the market? They are saying these names, but you can find them under at least 5 different brand name at each store, and they made sure not to tell you which brand it is so if you have it at your home, bit deal. I absolutely love how they make sure not to care if your actually ingesting it.

  • Looking For the Right Stuff

    There should be an agency to check that supplements have the correct ingredients. Since the supplements are legal to sell they should also be tested. Those of us who choose to take them should have some reassurance that they contain in them what is stated. There are people who have access to labs that often test aromatherapy oils for the right chemical balance and charge for that. I would would pay someone for a report on which supplement has the right ingredients that I am looking for, it would be worth it. A consumer report type of thing, here another free enterprise idea!

    • JB

      Hmm if only there was an agency to check that supplements have the correct ingredients.. an agency that could also test these products and ensure that they are safe and appropriate for consumption.. Right, .. the FDA is SUPPOSED to be monitoring these products, ensuring they are safe and appropriate for consumption. They are recklessly failing the people of this great nation on many levels.

      • Grant (@NotSoNiceville)

        You’ll want to talk to your pals in Congress about that. There’s a fellow over there by the name of Senator Orrin Hatch, hailing from the great state of Utah. The supplement industry showers him with campaign donations, and, in exchange, he’s gotten them exempted from FDA oversight. There is no government agency tasked with monitoring or testing herbal supplements and vitamins. The entire industry is a huge scam.

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