Herbal Supplements Class Action Lawsuits. Our firm is investigating potential class action lawsuits on behalf of consumers who purchased herbal supplements. These products often claim to offer a number of health benefits, but evidence suggests that they may not even contain the ingredients advertised on the label. Furthermore, testing has shown that some supplements contain potential allergens that are not included in the ingredient list; this can lead to life-threatening consequences to consumers who have allergies to certain food products. If you or someone you know purchased herbal supplements and want to know more about your legal rights, contact one of our experienced product liability lawyers today.
NYS Attorney General’s Office Advises GNC, Walmart, Walgreens and Target to Stop Selling Some Dietary Supplements
In 2015, the New York State Attorney General’s Office issued cease-and-desist letters to GNC, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart over their adulterated dietary supplements. The letters, dated Feb. 2, 2015, demanded that the national retailers stop selling the listed products, due to “Contamination, substitution and falsely labeling herbal products” which “constitute[s] deceptive business practices and, more importantly, present[s] considerable health risks for consumers,” the letters stated.
Investigators tested 24 products using a method called DNA barcoding, which uses a type of “genetic fingerprint” to identify individual ingredients. The products claimed to be seven different types of herbs:
- Gingko biloba
- Saw palmetto
- St. John’s wort
- Valerian root
Testing showed that 19 products contained DNA that was either unrecognizable or from a plant different than what the label claimed to be, The Washington Post reported. Additionally, ingredients that can cause allergic reactions in some people were identified in several products that never listed them; this includes five products containing wheat and two containing beans.
Wal-Mart appeared to be the worst out of all the retailers. None of their six tested supplements purely contained the ingredient advertised.
The letters cite a 2013 Canadian study analyzing 44 common supplements. Researchers found that one-third of herbal supplements did not contain any trace of the plant advertised on the label. These findings “alerted the dietary supplement industry to the fact that it is not providing the public with authentic products without substitution, contamination or fillers. It is disappointing that over a year later the attorney general’s researcher reached similar conclusions,” the letters stated.
Herbal Supplements Loosely Regulated, May Not Contain What They Claim
There has been increased scrutiny surrounding the dietary supplement industry. Because supplements are not categorized as food or drugs, they are not subject to strict regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Federal guidelines say that companies have to make sure their products are correctly labeled and safe for consumer use, but little is done to enforce this.
In 2012, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper showing that “adverse events” could result from lax regulation of the supplement industry. This includes kidney failure, hepatitis and other issues in the past five years. The Department of Health and Human Services also published a report in 2012 showing that the claims made by supplements are often not supported by scientific evidence. The agency advised the FDA to seek “explicit statutory authority to review substantiation for structure/function claims” which would essentially require supplements to be regulated the same as drugs.
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