Bottles of Walmart-brand echinacea, an herb said to ward off colds, were found to contain no echinacea at all. GNC-brand bottles of St. John’s wort, touted as a cure for depression, held rice and garlic, but not a trace of the herb.
In fact, DNA testing on hundreds of store-brand herbal supplements found that four out of five contained none of the herbs on the label. Instead, they were packed with cheap fillers such as wheat, rice and beans.
Based on the testing commissioned by his office, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday he has sent letters to the four major store chains involved — GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens — demanding that they immediately stop selling adulterated or mislabeled dietary supplements.
“This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: The old adage ‘buyer beware’ may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements,” the attorney general said.
The herbal supplement industry criticized the method used to analyze the samples and raised questions about the reliability of the findings.
The store chain with the poorest showing was Walmart, where only 4 percent of the products tested showed DNA from the plants listed on the labels.
Walmart spokesman Brian Nick said the company is reaching out to suppliers and will take appropriate action. Walgreen and GNC pledged to cooperate with the attorney general, but GNC said that they “stand by the quality, purity and potency of all ingredients listed.”