What’s in Your Supplements?

The New York State attorney general’s office accused four national retailers on Monday of selling dietary supplements that were fraudulent and in many cases contaminated with unlisted ingredients.

The authorities said they had run tests on popular store brands of herbal supplements at the retailers — Walmart, Walgreens, Target and GNC — which showed that roughly four out of five of the products contained none of the herbs listed on their labels. In many cases, the authorities said, the supplements contained little more than cheap fillers like rice and house plants, or substances that could be hazardous to people with food allergies.

At GNC, for example, the agency found that five out of six samples from the company’s signature “Herbal Plus” brand of supplements “were either unrecognizable or a substance other than what they claimed to be.” In pills labeled ginkgo biloba, the agency found only rice, asparagus and spruce, an ornamental plant commonly used for Christmas decorations.

At Target, the agency tested six herbal products from its popular “Up and Up” store brand of supplements. Three out of six – including ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid – tested negative for the herbs listed on their labels. But the agency did find that the pills contained powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots.

Here are the products that were analyzed by the attorney general, along with the test results that were described in cease-and-desist letters that the agency sent to the four retailers.

From GNC, Herbal Plus brand:

Gingko Biloba

No gingko biloba found
Found allium (garlic), rice, spruce and asparagus

St. John’s Wort

No St. John’s Wort found
Found allium (garlic), rice and dracaena (a tropical houseplant)

Ginseng

No ginseng found
Found rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus

Garlic

Contained garlic

Echinacea

No echinacea found
Found rice in some samples

Saw Palmetto

One sample contained the clear presence of palmetto
Other samples contained a variety of ingredients, including asparagus, rice and primrose

From Target, Up & Up brand

Gingko Biloba

No gingko biloba found
Found garlic, rice and mung/French bean

St. John’s Wort

No St. John’s Wort found
Found garlic, rice and dracaena (houseplant)

Garlic

Contained garlic
One test identified no DNA

Echinacea

Most but not all tests detected Echinacea One test identified rice

Saw Palmetto

Most tests detected saw palmetto Some tests found no plant DNA

Valerian Root

No valerian root found
Found allium, bean, asparagus, pea family, rice, wild carrot and saw palmetto

From Walgreens, Finest Nutrition brand

Gingko Biloba

No gingko biloba found Did detect rice

St. John’s Wort

No St. John’s Wort found
Detected garlic, rice and dracaena

Ginseng

No ginseng found
Detected garlic and rice

Garlic

No garlic found
Detected palm, dracaena, wheat and rice

Echinacea

No echinacea found
Identified garlic, rice and daisy

Saw Palmetto

Contained saw palmetto

From Walmart, Spring Valley brand

Gingko Biloba

No gingko biloba found
Found rice, dracaena, mustard, wheat and radish

St. John’s Wort

No St. John’s Wort found Detected garlic, rice and cassava

Ginseng

No ginseng found
Found rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus

Garlic

One sample showed small amounts of garlic Found rice, pine, palm, dracaena and wheat

Echinacea

No echinacea or plant material found

Saw Palmetto

Some samples contained small amounts of saw palmetto Also found garlic and rice

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Posted in Supplements

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