In the overwhelming majority of cases, DNA testing of store-brand herbal supplements such as Echinacea, St. John’s Wort and Ginseng revealed not even a trace of the herbs listed on the products’ labels. Only 21 percent of the time did the DNA testing confirm DNA from the plants listed on the labels. Walmart-brand herbal supplements were the most misleading, with only 4 percent of the DNA tests showing DNA from the plants listed. More than a third of the tests (35 percent) revealed contaminants and fillers in the products not listed on the products labels.
Shockingly, the US Food and Drug Administration provides very little regulatory oversight of these supplements. They require that companies selling the products test them only for safety and that their manufacturers adhere to good practices that would keep them from mislabeling the supplements. But, there are no real protections in place for consumers.
As it is, there is very little data to suggest that these herbal supplements are of any health or wellness value. David Schardt, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest advises “consumers should stop wasting their money in the herbal supplements aisle.”
The Attorney General has written to each of the retailers to ask that they stop selling these supplements. It is illegal to sell products with misleading labels. The question is whether the retailers will be removing the supplements from their shelves throughout the country. It’s hard to imagine that the problem resides in New York State alone.