If you are one of the million Americans who includes supplements as part of your daily diet, listen up: You may not be taking what you think you are. Worse yet, you may not be protected if you fall ill.
When consumers purchase faulty or mislabeled products, an experienced attorney can get them compensation for their injury. What happens, though, when that injury is caused by a dietary supplement that is not regulated by the FDA? The answer to that question is unclear.
In a recent study commissioned by the New York Attorney General’s office, many of the dietary supplements carried by four major retailers – Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and GNC – are not what they appear to be. In fact, some do not contain a trace of what they claim on their labels.
In the study, researchers tested the DNA of hundreds of bottles of store-brand supplements sold as dietary aids and treatments. Four out of five of the supplements tested contained no trace of the herb they were purported to hold.
Take, for example, Walmart’s Spring Valley Echinacea. There was no Echinacea or, as it happens, no other plant material in the pill. GNC’s Herbal Plus Ginseng contained no ginseng. This should be alarming to consumers who spend nearly $6 million each year on herbal supplements.
Why the cause for worry?
There are millions of people on prescription medications who are also taking herbal supplements, trusting that the products contain what is stated on the label. Unfortunately, when these products contain other ingredients, harmful interactions can occur.
As with any story, there are two sides.
“Processing during manufacturing of botanical supplements can remove or damage DNA,” says Steve Mister, CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition. “As a result, DNA analysis may be the wrong test for these kinds of products.”
Not so, according to Arthur Grollman, a doctor and professor at Stony Brook University. The study was “a well-controlled, scientifically based documentation of the outrageous degree of adulteration in the herbal supplement industry.”
So what can you do?
Many medical experts recommend that people do not spend money on these herbal supplements. It is said that many people receive nothing but placebo benefits even from those that do contain what they should. It’s best to save your money and only take the supplements recommended and prescribed by your doctor to ensure your safety.
If you believe that you have been harmed by a mislabeled supplement, contact an experienced attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can determine if you have a defective product liability case on your hands.