The slick labeling came with bold claims about the health benefits of its packaged herbs, touting promises from an immune boost to better prostate health derived from various substances selling for sometimes dozens of dollars per bottle.
But little or none of the labeled herbs could be found in certain health supplements sold by four major retailers. The products instead tested for high amounts of contaminants and fillers in a commercial ruse that the New York attorney general’s office called dangerous and illegal.
A scathing report by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released this month took to task a range of store-brand supplements sold by GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart. As part of an investigative study, DNA testing revealed a spotty record for the quality and constituents of some of the most popular herbal supplements sold from the major retail chains.
In its investigation, the attorney general’s office tested supplements such as Echinacea, Ginseng, St. John’s Wort, Garlic, Saw Palmetto and others taken from samples purchased in regions across New York, including the Binghamton area. The results revealed a market rife with phony claims and unregulated production resulting in supplements full of contaminants such as rice, beans, asparagus, wheat, houseplant and others.
In many cases, unlisted contaminants were the only plant material found in the product samples, according to the attorney general. In some, no DNA from a botanical substance of any kind could be found.
“This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: the old adage ‘buyer beware’ may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements,” Schneiderman said in a news release. “The DNA test results seem to confirm long-standing questions about the herbal supplement industry.”