Fake Ingredients? Retailers Accused Of Selling Phony Herbal Supplements

herbal supplements fake ingredients

A recent investigation in NYC revealed that some herbal supplements contain fake ingredients. These supplements can be found on shelves at major retailers like GNC and Walmart. Consumer Bertha Williams quit taking herbal supplements a few years ago after hearing several reports that they could contain ingredients that aren’t listed on the label.

Williams told 10 News, “It makes me sad.” She’s rightfully upset after hearing about a recent investigation in New York that proved the reports to be true, once again. Williams added, “If I was buying and didn’t have what it was saying that’s wrong.”

The investigation led to findings of fake ingredients in a wide variety of herbal supplements at four major retailers: GNC, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens. Several lab tests found that only 21 percent of the supplements had DNA from the plants advertised on the labels. These supplements were filled with radish, mustard, and other ingredients that could cause allergic reactions in unsuspecting consumers.

Here are some of the specific findings from the investigation, according to the Times report.

“Walmart’s ginkgo biloba — marketed as a memory booster — contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants, and wheat, even though it claimed to be wheat- and gluten free. Walgreen’s popular store brand of ginseng pills contains only powdered garlic and rice. Three of six herbal products at Target — St. John’s wort, ginkgo biloba, and the purported sleep aid valerian root — had no herbs and were made of powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. At GNC, herbal pills contained unlisted fillers such as powdered legumes, a class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, which can trigger allergic reactions.”

Dr. Alfred Aleguas, from the Florida Poison Center, explained his findings.

“I have to say I was pretty astonished that only 20% of samples ended up being containing ingredients they were supposed to. I think this story may change a lot of things. I think some companies may say it contains 100% of these ingredients as listed.”

He believes that the findings of fake ingredients listed on herbal supplements are an opener for both consumers and the healthcare industry.

The New York attorney general’s office recently issued a cease-and-desist letter to the major retailers on Monday, informing them to stop sales of herbal supplements listed with fake ingredients. Walmart has the poorest record out of the four, with only 4 percent of the products tested showed DNA from the plants listed on the labels.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is not taking this news of fake ingredients lightly. He says that mislabeling supplements is not only illegal, but could pose as a public health risk.

“Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal. They also pose unacceptable risks to New York Families– especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients.”

10News visited a Walmart located in Florida and found herbal supplements still on the shelves. Walmart and GNC have said they would respond “appropriately.” Walgreens said they would remove the supplements with the fake ingredients from their shelves. Target has not yet released a statement, according to Jobs & Hire.

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