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GNC under Scrutiny Again Over Herbal Supplement Ingredients

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Pittsburgh, PAThe herbal supplement industry can prove to be a double-edged sword for consumers attempting to take control of their own health by ingesting products which, in their view, contain more natural ingredients and fewer chemicals. Manufacturers also know that anything containing the word “herbal” can be a license to print money. And yet, there continue to be disconnects in the industry.

The latest allegations surfaced yesterday, when the Attorney General’s Office for the State of Oregon accused retailer GNC Holdings Inc. (GNC) of vending dietary supplements that contained banned substances. An herbal supplement lawsuit, put forward by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, was filed October 22.

The lawsuit alleges that GNC knowingly sold products that contained a product that was described as “amphetamine-like” and without the necessary approvals for diet pills sold in the United States. It is also alleged that some GNC supplements were laced with an illegal synthetic chemical employed in other countries to treat neurological disorders - but not approved in the United States. In both cases, the allegation is that both substances were not duly included on product labeling.

Many a would-be plaintiff contemplates an herbal supplement or dietary supplement lawsuit when it is found - or alleged - that products depicting a certain portfolio of ingredients are found to be lacking in those ingredients, or found to contain other ingredients not spelled out on product labeling. Consumers who have fallen ill, or simply dislike being taken advantage of, are seeking the advice of dietary supplement attorneys.

“It is scary to know that certain products sold by GNC contain an ingredient that is not even labeled, let alone approved in the United States,” Rosenblum said in a statement posted by CNN Money (10/22/15).

The Oregon Department of Justice said the herbal supplement lawsuit follows an investigation aided by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

GNC reportedly denied the claims and noted it will vigorously defend itself against the allegations, adding that GNC promptly undertook a removal of all products containing the ingredients at issue when the FDA originally banned the substances for use in the United States.

This is not the first time GNC has come under fire…

In February of this year, the Attorney General for the state of New York demanded that GNC and its retail partners Target, Walmart and Walgreens immediately cease the sale of products branded as herbal supplements that don’t contain herbs. Two months later, in March, GNC agreed to boost quality control and testing of their products.

Bloomberg Business (10/22/15) reported yesterday that an FDA study in 2013 found that 43 percent of supplements labeled as containing acacia rigidula were “spiked” with BMPEA, which is banned for use by athletes by the World Anti-Doping Agency, according to the complaint. Bloomberg notes that GNC has more than 8,000 stores in 50 countries and bills itself as the world’s largest health retailer. The chain is based in Pittsburgh.

Consumers and plaintiffs alike will be watching the herbal supplement case as it unfolds in Oregon. The case is State of Oregon v. General Nutrition Corp., 15CV28591, in the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon, Multnomah County.


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