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Changes Coming to Herbal Supplement Industry

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New York, NYSometimes it takes a lawsuit to force a change, and in that regard the herbal supplement industry may not be all that different from the pharmaceutical industry. After herbal supplement lawsuits were filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, more concerns have been raised about herbal supplement fraud. Although Schneiderman’s actions don’t necessarily affect other states, other attorneys general are reportedly calling for an inquiry into the industry.

Schneiderman filed charges against GNC, Walmart, Target and Walgreens, alleging some of the herbal supplements sold by those companies either did not have the ingredients they claimed to have or were contaminated with ingredients not included on the label. Schneiderman reportedly used DNA barcoding to test the products and found that only 21 percent of products tested were accurately labeled.

The industry attacked Schneiderman’s testing methods, but GNC reached an agreement with him in which the company vowed to change its practices. Schneiderman and Daniel Fabricant, PhD, and CEO of The Natural Products Association, issued a joint statement on May 11, 2015, vowing to ensure herbal products comply with consumer protection laws.

“Anyone who buys an herbal supplement should be able to do so with full knowledge of what is in the product and have complete confidence that every precaution was taken to ensure its authenticity and purity,” they announced. The two agreed to use DNA barcoding and other technologies to test herbal and botanical ingredients.

Schneiderman only has jurisdiction in New York, so his actions in that state do not necessarily have an impact on herbal supplements sold in Pennsylvania. According to Fox News (5/7/15), however, other attorneys general are jumping on board, with 14 signing a letter to Congress requesting an inquiry into the supplement industry.

In that letter, the attorneys general note that the herbal supplement industry is a multibillion-dollar industry and that the FDA knows of problems in the herbal supplement supply chain.

“In FY 2013, FDA inspectors cited two out of every three supplement manufacturers for allegedly violating current good manufacturing practices or ‘cGMPs,’” they write. They also write that they will pursue supplement manufacturers and retailers “who break public health and consumer protections laws and endanger the health and well-being of the residents of our states.”

The attorneys general ask Congress and the FDA to collaborate on addressing the quality assurance of herbal supplements and exploring whether the FDA should develop standards and restrictions to govern the use of herbal supplements.

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