Four United States retailers which have been selling fraudulent supplements such as gingko biloba and ginseng are being forced to remove these potentially dangerous compounds which may contain illegal ingredients including allergens by the New York state attorney.
The New York State attorney claims that a variety of herbal supplements sold by four national retailers including GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart, are to be removed from store shelves immediately.
After investigations, it has been revealed that the top selling herbal supplements at the four U.S. stores contain a number of fake and potentially dangerous ingredients instead of the natural herbs as claimed by their packaging. They contain cheap fullers like wheat, powdered vegetables, and common houseplants.
Eric Schneiderman, New York State attorney general, has released a cease-and-desist order and in a statement, he said, "Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal...and pose unacceptable risks to New York families-particularly those with allergies to hidden ingredients."
They are ordering these stores to halt all transactions in their herbal supplements namely echinacea, garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, saw palmetto, St. John's wort, and valerian root.
"Contamination, substitution and falsely labeling herbal products constitute deceptive business practices and, more importantly, present considerable health risks for consumers," said the letters, first reported by the New York Times.
The series of tests were done using a process called DNA barcoding wherein individual ingredients will be identified. All but five contain DNA that are either unrecognizable or not the plant they are claiming to be.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has been investigating these natural herbal supplements but this is the first time that a legal action has threatened these four big companies.
One of the results of their investigations was on the ginseng pills from Walgreens which was promoted for physical endurance, strength and vitality which was found to contain only powdered rice and garlic.
Meanwhile, Wal-mart is also in hot water after investigations unveiled that their gingko biloba, a famous Chinese herb used as a memory enhancer, only contained powdered radish and wheat. The label of the supplement claimed that it is wheat and gluten free, hence may induce severe allergic reactions.
Target has three supplements which tested negative for the herbs they claim to be. The supplements are gingko biloba, St. John's wort and valerian root. Furthermore, it was revealed they only contain powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. Subsequently, GNC has supplements containing cheap fillers like powered legumes, peanuts and soybeans which can be fatal for those with allergies.
Harvard Medical School assistant professor Pieter Cohen, who is an expert on supplement safety, told the New York Times that the test results were so extreme he found them hard to accept.