Updated: CRN, NPA & AHPA respond
AGs from Connecticut, Indiana, and Puerto Rico join NY AG as probe expands
According to a statement from Attorney General Schneiderman, “The initiative seeks to enhance transparency and ensure that the herbal supplements industry is taking the steps necessary to validate their marketing claims, including as to authenticity and purity.”
“I am pleased to announce this historic partnership to protect the millions of people who buy herbal supplements from potentially false and misleading business practices,” said AG Schneiderman. “Clearly, the questions we raised about the herbal supplements sold in New York resonate outside of our borders.
“By joining together, and building on the long track record of state attorneys general upholding the rights of consumers, we can go further in investigating this industry and, as needed, in achieving reform. I look forward to collaborating with these partners on this vital work.”
CRN: "It's ironic"
Steve Mister, President/CEO, Council for Responsible Nutrition, told us: “The NY Attorney General’s office continues to ignore the scientific facts of his investigation, as well as the fact that botanical supplements are already properly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
"It’s ironic that he continues to call for transparency, when his office refuses to release its test results and methodology, which scientists familiar with botanicals and DNA testing say is inaccurate. It’s unfortunate that he has pulled other states into this misguided effort, because clearly these supplements are products that consumers find beneficial. There’s no safety issue that warrants this high level investigation and misuse of tax payers money."
AHPA: "The allegations are unfounded and based on flawed testing"
American Herbal Product Association (AHPA) president Michael McGuffin said the association and its members are committed to full compliance with the many regulations required for herbal supplements marketed in the United States. "But the allegations of the New York Attorney General are unfounded and based on flawed testing of a few herbal products. In the absence of accurate analysis with accepted test methods policymakers and consumers should reserve broad judgments about the entire herbal products marketplace.
"If additional scrutiny is initiated to evaluate herbal product quality – either by the New York AG or any other state’s Attorney General – consultation with the Food and Drug Administration and herbal experts should first be undertaken to identify valid test methods accepted under current federal regulations."
NPA: The grassroots are increasingly important
Daniel Fabricant, CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA), said that the NY Attorney General had been fishing and found a few fish. "In some ways it's positive because big consumer protection states like California, Texas, and Florida have taken a look and not joined the coalition. This doesn't mean everything is OK.
"If I'm a retailer in Indiana, Connecticut, Puerto Rico or New York, I'm scratching my head. The attorneys general are telling me what I can and cannot sell on my shelves?
"It's clear that this is purely political at this point, and the grassroots become very important: We really have to weigh in on the political process. We have to keep the cards and letters, emails and tweets coming."
An expanding investigation
AG Schneiderman publicly launched his investigation on February 2 with cease and desist letters to four major retailers – GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart – after DNA barcoding tests found 79% of the products tested did not contain the labeled substance or contained other non-listed ingredients. Analytical experts were quick to slam the choice of DNA barcoding as the method of choice for botanical extracts that may contain little to no cellular material.
Despite strong calls from industry to release the data, the NY AG’s office stated that it would not be publishing the data as it is part of an ongoing investigation. The NY AG subsequently expanded his investigation to demanding documentation to substantiate structure-function claims on the select products.
The investigation was broadened further still on February 23 with letters sent to four leading manufacturers – NBTY, Pharmavite, Nature’s Way, and Nutraceutical Corp. – demanding detailed ingredient and quality control information on every herbal supplement they sell in his state.
IN, CT, PR
It is now no longer just about New York State, however. “The findings uncovered by Attorney General Schneiderman raise serious public health and consumer protection concerns potentially impacting consumers in Connecticut and across the country,” said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said: “The significant issues recently raised about herbal supplements are a concern that must be taken seriously so as not to further jeopardize the health and safety of people ingesting these products.
“As state consumer protection advocates, my fellow attorneys general and I are focused on efforts to eliminate misleading and deceptive labeling for the benefit of consumers.”
"The accuracy in the information that a label offers to consumers is sacred,” added Nery Adames Soto, the secretary of the Department of Consumers Affairs in Puerto Rico. “When is not up to par with standards, it induces the consumer to error and violates the trust between the commerce and the client. At DACO we will be rigorous demanding that the labeling reciprocates the product contents. We are grateful to the New York State Attorney General’s Office for this coordinated effort and look forward to work together in this front."