Quality control should not be a fictional term for major retailers hawing the equivalent of snake oil. Supplements must be as promised and advertised for otherwise people's lives and health are directly at risk.

The Attorney General for New York recently announced that he sent letters to four major retailers, GNC, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens, for selling store brand herbal supplement products  that either could not be verified to contain the labeled substance, or which were found to contain ingredients not listed on the labels.  The letters called for the retailers to immediately discontinue the sale of certain popular products, including Echinacea, Ginseng, St. John’s Wort, and others.  The Attorney General requested the companies provide detailed information relating to the production, processing and testing of herbal supplements sold at their stores, as well as set forth a thorough explanation of quality control measures in place.  It was reported shortly afterwards that many of the involved retailers pulled the alleged defect goods off the shelf until the issue is resolved.

Class action lawsuits are being filed. If you have any of the affected supplements please discontinue using them and seek medical assistance if you are having a current medical concern you believe is related to the counterfeit supplements. Do not throw the counterfeit product away as this is your only evidence and will be important if, as a result of the product use, you have been injured or become sick. This includes allergic reactions or otherwise had your health affected. Store the product in its original container in a bag and keep in a safe dry place. If you have been affected by the fake and counterfeit supplements please immediately contact the experienced attorneys at Wallace & Graham at 1-800-849-5291. We will advise you immediately what to do and how to go about protecting yourself.

The evidence the supplements are counterfeit supplements appears to be very strong and frankly, almost overwhelming.  DNA testing was performed as part of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. The testing showed that, overall, just 21% of the test results from store brand herbal supplements verified DNA from the plants listed on the products’ labels — with 79% coming up empty for DNA related to the labeled content or verifying contamination with other plant material.

 The retailer with the poorest showing for DNA matching products listed on the label was Walmart.  Only 4% of the Walmart products tested showed DNA from the plants listed on the products’ labels.  Only 4%. Think about that number and the volume of counterfeit supplements it put in peoples bodies. Walmart is one of the biggest sellers of these items in North Carolina and if you think you have a defective vitamin or supplement please give us a call at Wallace & Graham to discuss your rights.

“This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: the old adage ‘buyer beware’ may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.  "The DNA test results seem to confirm long-standing questions about the herbal supplement industry.  Mislabeling, contamination, and false advertising are illegal.  They also pose unacceptable risks to especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients.  At the end of the day, American corporations doing business 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.”  Many times these companies simply rely upon vendors to make and package the supplements and do not even randomly test to confirm that the consumer is getting what it paid for.  In North Carolina the seller can be responsible for its unfit or defective items sold with its brand label. Contact one of the experienced Product Liability Lawyers at Wallace & Graham to discuss your rights. 1-800-849-5291

States are finally contemplating legislation to create a dietary food supplements safety committee targeting retailers selling generic supplements that may or may not contain the substances contained on the labels.  Wallace & Graham has always believed that there needs to be adequate standards and better enforcement over these dietary supplements so consumers will feel confident knowing what they are buying.  These companies, if the allegations are true, are selling not only ineffective tablets but also supplements that place individual with allergies at risk of an attack that could result in death.  This is a very serious matter and the public needs to be diligent in protecting itself from the retailers whose negligent and possibly fraudulent actions have clearly diluted the value of their name. Until proven otherwise these companies have lost credibility with those seeking the benefit of the supplements.

“The evidence for these herbs' effectiveness is sketchy to begin with," said David Schardt, Senior Nutritionist of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  "But when the advertised herbs aren't even in many of the products, it’s a sign that this loosely regulated industry is urgently in need of reform.  Until then, and perhaps even after then, consumers should stop wasting their money.  Attorney General Schneiderman has done what federal regulators should have done a long time ago.”

“This study undertaken by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office is a well-controlled, scientifically-based documentation of the outrageous degree of adulteration in the herbal supplement industry,” said Arthur P. Grollman, M.D., Professor of Pharmacological Sciences at Stony Brook University.  Hopefully, this action can prompt other states to follow New York’s example and lead to the reform of federal laws that, in their current form, are doing little to protect the public.”

Using DNA barcoding technology to examine the contents of herbal supplements, the Attorney General’s investigation is focused on what appears to be the practice of substituting contaminants and fillers in the place of authentic product.  The investigation looked at six different herbal supplements sold at the four major retail companies. It tested product from various regions so that the samples would accurately reflect the markets the counterfeit goods were being sold in.

The testing revealed that all of the retailers at issue were selling a large percentage of supplements for which modern DNA barcode technology could not detect the labeled botanical substance. A large number of the tests did not reveal any DNA from a botanical substance of any kind.  Some of the contaminants identified include rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplant, wild carrot, and others.  In many cases, unlisted contaminants were the only plant material found in the product samples. That is an incredulous statement. Some of the counterfeit and fraudulent supplements had none of the product. Zero!

This is why, if you or your family have been affected you should stop immediately from taking the suspected supplement, preserve it by keeping it in its original container and placing it in a sealable baggie. If you are currently suffering some negative health affect form the medicine seek immediate medical attention. If you have questions on what to do please contact the attorneys at Wallace & Graham to determine your next step.

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.

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.

An expert in DNA barcoding technology, Dr. James A. Schulte II of Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., was hired by the Attorney General’s office to perform the testing.  DNA barcodes are short genetic markers in an organism’s DNA and are used to identify it as belonging to a particular species.  Barcodes provide an unbiased, reproducible method of species identification.  Barcodes can be used to determine the exact plant species being tested. Science proved the products to be counterfeit.

If you have questions or concerns about your rights pursuant to North Carolina law are with respect to these types of products please contact the experienced attorneys at Wallace & Graham P.A at 1-800-849-5391. This article was meant to describe the situation that is occurring with the counterfeit supplements’ and is not meant to provide medical or legal opinions or advice. It is for informative purposes only. For more detail, consultation and information please contact Attorney Mona Wallace at Wallace & Graham.1-800-849-5291

class action, consumer protection

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