NY AG expands supplement industry scrutiny


NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday announced the formation of a coalition of state attorneys general from Connecticut, Indiana and Puerto Rico to further investigate the business practices of the herbal supplement industry. The question is whether or not consumers are getting what they are paying for. The problem is that the New York Attorney General's office is using what the industry describes as questionable testing methodology in an effort to ascertain whether the herbal ingredients listed on the label are actually in the product. 


“The NY Attorney General’s office continues to ignore the scientific facts of his investigation, as well as the fact that botanical supplements are already properly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration," stated Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition. "It’s ironic that he continues to call for transparency, when his office refuses to release its test results and methodology, which scientists familiar with botanicals and DNA testing say is inaccurate. It’s unfortunate that he has pulled other states into this misguided effort, because clearly these supplements are products that consumers find beneficial. There’s no safety issue that warrants this high level investigation and misuse of tax payers money.”


According to GNC Holdings, one of the retailers identified by the Attorney General's office as selling contaminated or mislabled herbal supplements, consumers are absolutely getting what they are paying for. GNC on Tuesday announced that independent, thirdparty testing of certain product lots in its Herbal Plus product line has confirmed that the products are safe, pure, properly labeled and in full compliance with all regulatory requirements following four sets of testing. The products were tested during the production process, tested again post-production but prior to distribution, tested a third time in response to Schneiderman's inquiries and tested a fourth time by an independent third-party laboratory and reviewed by an independent expert.


“This additional round of tests leaves no doubt that our products are not only pure but are in full compliance with all regulatory requirements," stated Michael Archbold, GNC CEO. "When generally and widely accepted industry tests sanctioned by the global governing bodies that set standards for product purity and quality are used, GNC products are fully compliant. We share the Attorney General’s objective of ensuring that consumers can rely on companies like GNC to deliver pure, properly labeled products and, as expected, these results demonstrate that fact.”


GNC also submitted the test results to Frank Davis, director of regulatory affairs for Regulatory Compliance Associates, to review the results. In his report, Davis concluded, “Testing of the specified lots of products by accepted and reliable methods, and with reference to limits promulgated by the USP [United States Pharmacopeia], supports that these lots are not adulterated or mislabeled, contrary to the allegations of the NY AG Letter.” 


The coalition’s formation follows a recent analysis commissioned by the New York State Attorney General’s Office that found contaminants, unlabeled plant species and other substances in certain store-brand herbal supplements. "Many of the supplements, moreover, had either been so thoroughly processed that the genetic material of the original plant source was undetectable or not present at all. The office has sought documentation from the retailers, as well as from several major manufacturers of supplements, as part of an ongoing investigation," the Attorney General's office noted. 


“I am pleased to announce this historic partnership to protect the millions of people who buy herbal supplements from potentially false and misleading business practices,” Schneiderman said. “New Yorkers and consumers nationwide deserve confidence that when an herbal supplement is represented as authentic, pure, and natural, it really is. Clearly, the questions we raised about the herbal supplements sold in New York resonate outside of our borders. By joining together, and building on the long track record of state attorneys general upholding the rights of consumers, we can go further in investigating this industry and, as needed, in achieving reform. I look forward to collaborating with these partners on this vital work.”


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