Health supplements are only loosely regulated in the U.S., and recent tests show that this may be an issue. It's been revealed that supplements from popular retailers like Walmart, Walgreens, GNC and Target may contain a few extra ingredients — some of which may cause health issues in those taking them.
The New York State attorney general's office conducted an investigation into some store brand supplements sold at the four different retailers, and what they found is a bit disconcerting. Some supplements contained extra ingredients, and others contained very little (if any at all) of the herbs they are supposed to have.
They checked out 24 different products that were labeled to contain the following herbs: echinacea, garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort and valerian root. Out of those 24, they found that only five of the products were free from contamination with extra ingredients. Even worse, five of the products contained undeclared wheat, and two contained beans — both of which can cause health problems in people with allergies or celiac disease.
This shady practice, if it is indeed true, is deceptive, and dangerous. For example, a bottle of ginkgo biloba from Walmart was labeled "wheat and gluten free," but it was found to contain mostly powdered radish, houseplants and wheat. If you have celiac disease, consuming just a teensy bit of wheat can send you into a world of hurt, and you can be taking these supplements and destroying the lining of your stomach and small intestine and have no idea where the gluten is coming from.
Walmart received the most negative reports, as none of the six supplements tested were shown to contain only the ingredient they should have. Cease and desist letters have been sent to each of the four retailers as officials demand they pull the products in question. Walgreens has already responded and says they will remove the products on store shelves nationwide, and Walmart and GNC have stated they will act appropriately. Target has yet to respond.
This is definitely a significant concern. For one thing, if you purchase a dietary supplement, you should get that supplement and nothing else, and if there is anything else included, it should be written on the label. While there are federal regulations in place that require appropriate and safe labeling, supplements are exempt as they are not considered food nor drugs.
Hopefully this is the first step in highlighting the questionable labeling practices of supplement manufacturers, because this is a gray area that should not be ignored anymore.
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