The New York State attorney general’s office recently leveled accusations against four of the largest retail chains in the U.S. – WalMart, Target, Walgreens, and GNC – of marketing fraudulent herbal supplements to consumers. Authorities say that taking these fake supplements could prove hazardous to one’s health. The accusations came after tests were conducted on the most popular store brands of supplements.
The results of the tests revealed that four out of every five supplements contained none of the ingredients listed on the labels. Legal experts anticipate a spate of personal injury lawsuits from plaintiffs on Long Island and across the country, once consumers discover that their health problems could have been caused by the fake supplements.
Potential health dangers from scam supplements
Instead of the herbs the labels claimed the products contained, the pills actually contained cheap filler ingredients, ranging from asparagus and rice powder to houseplants. For some people, taking these fake ingredients may not pose a serious health risk. For others, it can be downright deadly. Allergic reactions may occur when a product contains ingredients that are not listed on the label.
For example, the authorities discovered that a popular gingko biloba supplement sold at WalMart contained wheat, powdered radish, and houseplants. The label did not specify that the product contained wheat, a common allergen. In fact, the label claimed the product was wheat-and gluten-free. Likewise, pills tested from GNC contained powdered legumes, among other filler ingredients, which could prove deadly for someone with a severe peanut or soybean allergy.
Retailers receive cease and desist letters
The FDA requires companies that sell herbal supplements to ensure these products are labeled accurately and are safe for consumers. Unfortunately, little enforcement action has been taken, particularly since a 1994 law excludes supplements from obtaining FDA approval prior to marketing.
However, in an effort to protect New Yorkers, the NY attorney general’s office sent cease and desist notifications to these four major retailers, ordering them to stop selling herbal supplements that are adulterated and/or mislabeled.
“Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal. They also pose unacceptable risks to New York families — especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients,” said state attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman in a statement.
The cease and desist letters also demanded that the retailers disclose the procedures they use to verify supplements’ ingredients. Under threat of legal action, GNC released a statement noting that it would cooperate; however, the company did not admit that the quality and purity of their supplements may be compromised. Target declined to release a statement, while WalMart said that it would “take appropriate action.” Walgreens has said that all of its stores nationwide would remove the fake supplements, even though the cease and desist letters apply only to New York stores.
Unfortunately, given the popularity of herbal supplements, it’s entirely possible that some consumers have already suffered harm because of the mislabeling.
Filing an herbal supplement lawsuit on Long Island
The product liability lawyers of Edelman, Krasin & Jaye have long been ardent advocates for consumer health and safety. With our decades of experience in the courtroom and vast investigative resources, our law firm can help you demand the compensation you deserve for injuries caused by fake herbal supplements.
Long Island residents who may have the basis for an herbal supplement lawsuit are encouraged to call us at 1-800-469-7429 to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation case review.