In 2013, a Canadian Government study found that there are at least 65,000 dietary supplement being sold in America, and over 150 million Americans buying them consistently. Herbal supplement sales made an estimated $6 billion in 2013 alone. Needless to say, we're talking about a hugely profitable industry.
However, recent DNA tests of big brand herbal supplements are discovering the truth about these outrageous earnings. Do herbal supplements sell like hot cakes? Yes. Are the big-brand supplement companies saving tons of cash by loading pills with cheap ingredients and lying on the labels? Absolutely.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman commissioned an involved DNA study of thousands of bottles of store-brand herbal supplements. The results were shocking enough to warrant cease-and-desist letters to Target, GNC, Walmart and Walgreens, demanding that mislabeled supplements be taken off the shelves.
Four of the five tested products (which claimed to benefit a variety of ailments ranging from depression to prostate issues), were found to contain none of the ingredients listed on the bottle. Instead, cheap fillers such as wheat, beans, rice, and even house plants were discovered in these pills.
As Schneiderman pointed out, this is a huge liability issue. Individuals with certain food and plant allergies are being put at risk whenever they ingest a mislabeled supplement. For this reason, it has been strongly advised that those with various dietary restrictions resist purchasing big-brand supplements for good.
In one of the tests, all of which took place at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, Walmart-brand pills said to contain echinacea, an immune-boosting herb, showed not a single trace of echinacea DNA. GNC-brand products marketed to contain St. John's Wort actually held garlic, rice, and a tropical house plant. Ginseng pills were found lacking any amount ginseng. This list goes on and on.
The company with the most shocking test results was Walmart, where only 4% of the products had DNA from the plants listed on the labels. Each product was tested at least five times, on three to four samples of each supplement.
GNC and Walgreen's have agreed to give the Attorney General detailed information on production and quality control, while suspending the sale of certain supplements. Walmart is flat out refuting the claims, stating that their own studies show no such disparity between labeling and product content. Still, Walmart will comply by removing some products from their shelves in the state of New York.
It is clear that the supplement industry is in major need of reform. In the meantime, consumers are becoming more conscious about their supplement intake and are switching to small-brand, organically certified pills.
Non-labeled fillers that the tests discovered ranged from citrus, pine, and primrose to wild carrot and even unidentified, non-plant material.
Do you know what's in your pills?
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