Attorney General Jepsen Joins Coalition in
Widening Probe of Herbal Supplement Industry
Attorney General George Jepsen today announced that he has joined a coalition of state attorneys general to examine labeling, quality control and other aspects of the herbal supplement industry.
The coalition’s formation was prompted by a recent analysis by the New York State Attorney General's Office that detected contaminants, unlabeled plant species and other potentially dangerous substances in store-brand herbal supplements sold by GNC, Walmart, Target and Walgreens. In some cases, the supplements had been processed to such an extent that the genetic material of the original plant source was undetectable or not present at all. The multistate partnership, led by New York and including Indiana and Puerto Rico in addition to Connecticut, will seek greater transparency from herbal supplement manufacturers and retailers.
"Consumers are entitled to expect that the product they are purchasing actually contains the ingredients as listed on the label," said Attorney General Jepsen. "The findings uncovered by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman raise serious public health and consumer protection concerns potentially impacting consumers in Connecticut and across the country. As attorneys general have shown time and time again in recent years, we have a strong and unique ability to work together on behalf of our respective constituencies on issues of national concern. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership, and look forward to partnering with him and my fellow attorneys general on this coalition."
“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,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “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.”
A 2013 study from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research estimated there are about 65,000 dietary supplements on the market consumed by more than 150 million Americans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires companies to verify that their products are safe and properly labeled for their contents, but unlike drugs, supplements do not undergo the agency's rigorous evaluation process, which scrutinizes everything about the drug—from the design of clinical trials to the severity of side effects to the conditions under which the drug is manufactured.
More than half of FDA Class I drug recalls between 2004 and 2012 were for “dietary supplements.” Class I recalls are reserved only for products whose use poses a high risk of “serious adverse health consequences or death.” One of the most dramatic examples of harm caused by use of supplements involved ephedra-containing herbal weight-loss products, which caused hundreds of deaths before ephedra was banned from the market in 2004.
Mislabeled supplements ingested by the public pose a significant danger to those who have food allergies or take medication. If the producers of herbal supplements fail to identify all the ingredients on a product’s label, a consumer with food allergies, or who is taking medication for an unrelated illness, is taking a potentially serious health risk every time a contaminated herbal supplement is ingested.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Saadi is assisting the Attorney General with this matter.