Should retailers know what’s in their store brands?
It’s been argued that food, drug and mass retailers selling thousands of products made by branded manufacturers can’t be expected to know the actual ingredients of every item they stock. But what about the products that carry retailers’ own labels?
Last week, the New York Attorney General’s Office sent letters to GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens telling them to immediately stop the sale of popular private label herbal supplements after “just 21% of the test results from store brand herbal supplements verified DNA from the plants listed on the products’ labels,” according to the Office’s statement. The tests found that asparagus, wild carrots, peas, powdered rice and other substances were used as fillers. In some cases, ingredients used could have proven dangerous to those with allergies.
According to the tests, the DNA matched the label 22 percent of the time for GNC, 41 percent for Target, 18 percent for Walgreens and only 4 percent for Walmart.
"Results seem to confirm long-standing questions about the herbal supplement industry. Mislabeling, contamination, and false advertising are illegal," said Eric Schneiderman, New York’s Attorney General, in a statement. "They also pose unacceptable risks to New York families — especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients. At the end of the day, American corporations must step up to the plate and ensure that their customers are getting what they pay for, especially when it involves promises of good health."
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates supplements, manufacturers are not required to seek the agency’s approval before producing or selling the products. The FDA leaves it up to manufacturers and distributors to "make sure that all claims and information on the product label and in other labeling are truthful and not misleading."
According to a New York Times report, Walgreens said it would remove the products across the country and Walmart said it would "take appropriate action" with suppliers. While GNC said it would cooperate with the attorney general’s office, it continues to stand behind its testing methods and products. Target did not respond.
- A.G. Schneiderman Asks Major Retailers To Halt Sales Of Certain Herbal Supplements As DNA Tests Fail To Detect Plant Materials Listed On Majority Of Products Tested – New York Attorney General
- Dietary Supplements – U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers – The New York Times (tiered sub.)
- Mislabeling, contamination of herbal supplements shows the honor system is not working – The Buffalo News
How will the New York Attorney General’s findings affect the sale of store brand supplements in the chains named in the investigation? Does the FDA need to be given greater authority by Congress to regulate the manufacture and sale of supplements?