New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller are leading an effort along with 12 other state attorneys general to urge Congress to investigate the herbal supplements industry and toughen standards to protect consumers.
The request was made today (Apr. 2) in a letter to Congress following a New York State investigation that “raised serious concerns” about the marketing and safety of products.
“When consumers take an herbal supplement, they should be able to do so with full knowledge of what is in that product and confidence that every precaution was taken to ensure its authenticity and purity,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
Attorneys General Behind the Effort
- George Jepsen (D-CT),
- Karl Racine (D-DC)
- David M. Louie (D-HI)
- Lawrence Wasden (R-ID),
- Greg Zoeller (R-IN)
- Tom Miller (D-IA)
- Jack Conway (D-KY)
- Maura Healey (D-MA)
- Jim Hood (D-MS)
- Joseph Foster (D-NH)
- Eric Schneiderman (D-NY)
- Joey P. San Nicolas (D-MP)
- Kathleen Kane (D-PA)
- Peter Kilmartin (D-RI)
Attorneys General Raise the Following Issues
- The adequacy and effectiveness of existing quality assurance measures for verifying the source, identity, purity, potency, and quality of ingredients and fillers.
- The adequacy and effectiveness of existing regimes for verifying the identity, composition, purity, potency, and quality of the finished products sold by domestic manufacturers and retailers
- The degree to which product labels and marketing, including the use of the terms ‘natural,’ ‘herbal,’ and ‘extract,’ mislead consumers about the contents of herbal and dietary supplements, and whether the FDA should develop standards and restrictions governing their use.
- The extent to which Congress should mandate, or direct the FDA to develop enhanced, uniform, industry-wide quality assurance and verification regimes to guarantee the source, identity, purity, and potency of materials incorporated into herbal and dietary supplements.
- The extent to which Congress should mandate, or direct the FDA to develop, enhanced manufacturing and supply chain management requirements for the industry to guarantee the safety and efficacy of the finished herbal and dietary supplements.
Celebrity Health and Fitness has reported on several occasions about the sketchy nature of health supplements and their tie-in with celebrities who promote them.
In January, CHF reported how Ben Carson, a prominent retired Baltimore doctor and potential GOP candidate for President promoted sketchy health supplements sold by a company called Mannatech, which has a history of lawsuits and actions by regulators.
The same month, CHF published a report about how Justin Bieber is hyping a product developed by Carlon Colker, who has a long history of hyping sketchy supplements, including a deadly speed-like drug.
The multi-billion dollar herbal supplement industry is built on the promise that its products will improve the health and well-being of those who use them. But the products are lightly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Manufacturers only need to make a few disclosures about their products to market them.
The New York Attorney General’s Office conducted tests of popular herbal supplements that showed that products were contaminated with allergens, off-label plant species and other potentially dangerous substances, according to the statement.
“Some products were so thoroughly processed that the genetic material of the original natural plant source was unrecognizable,” the attorneys general said.
“Other research has suggested that some herbal supplements have been found to contain high levels of heavy metals like lead, mercury, and arsenic. One study even found that a popular herbal supplement designed to reduce menopause symptoms may have caused severe liver damage in certain women,” the statement continued.
In February, the New York attorney general asked major retailers to halt the sale of certain herbal supplements following DNA tests that failed to detect plant materials listed on the labels of the majority of products tested.
Schneiderman followed up this week by announcing a “historic agreement” with major supplement manufacturer GNC to reform how it produces and sells herbal supplements.
Under the agreement, GNC will use DNA barcoding to authenticate plants used in supplements and adopt new testing standards to prevent contamination. The move is designed to improve transparency for consumers and is a first step towards ensuring greater consumer safety.
So far, there has been no reaction from Congress.
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