Congress to examine herbal supplement industry

Congress to examine herbal supplement industry

Attorneys general from 14 states are calling on Congress to investigate the herbal supplements industry following a report from New York's top prosecutor that alleged many products contained ingredients that were not listed on their labels and that could pose serious health risks.

The group, led by New York Attorney Gen Eric T. Schneiderman and Indiana Attorney Gen. Greg Zoeller, asked Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration more authority to oversee the industry.

"We believe the safety and efficacy of these supplements is a matter of deep public concern across the country. We therefore urge you to take swift action," the attorneys general said in a letter Thursday to lawmakers.

In February, Schneiderman sent letters to General Nutrition Corp., Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Walgreen Co., demanding that they stop selling their store-brand herbal supplements.

His office alleged that 79 percent of products tested from the four retailers had no DNA of the plants listed on the labels or were contaminated by wheat, pine, rice, beans and other materials.

Schneiderman's testing method — DNA bar-coding — was criticized by the supplement industry and outside experts.

In a settlement Monday, Schneiderman's office cleared GNC to sell some of its most popular products, including echinacea, ginseng and St. John's Wort.

State investigators found "no evidence" that GNC had deviated from Food and Drug Administration standards or from standard industry practice in producing the supplements, according to a letter Schneiderman sent to GNC's chairman, Michael Archbold.

However, the two sides continued to disagree on whether federal rules, which don't require DNA-based testing to authenticate herbal supplements, are sufficient.

GNC said its own testing had shown that its store-brand herbal supplements were "safe, pure" and "properly labeled."

But GNC said it agreed to expand testing, including the use of DNA bar-coding, to give customers "even greater confidence."

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