The Supplement Industry Under Attack...Again!

February 2015, Warren Matthews

Summary

This time it is New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who made headlines recently by issuing cease and desist orders to a number of well known supplement companies...GNC included.

This time it is New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who made headlines recently by issuing cease and desist orders to a number of well known supplement companies...GNC included.

He has since followed this up with issuing subpoenas to retailers requiring them to provide evidence for the product claims.

All this ‘stuff’ would be fine if it was backed by sound logic and science but the Attorney General is being very secretive about the ‘findings’ that have led to this action.  What is known is that he contacted a third party laboratory to test the contents of various supplements using an as yet undisclosed DNA barcoding methodology which may well be unsuitable for this purpose.  He so far has refused to disclose the methodology used.

The results these tests simply seem unbeleivable, and he is claiming that one product it contains ‘wild’ carrots...  Such an assertion is indeed wild!

There are accepted and proven methods for identifying botanicals, but these were not used.  We spend many thousands of dollars each year testing raw ingredients prior to manufacture.  Because we only buy from supplies whom we have checked out thoroughly, the overwhelming majority of them pass the tests.  However, some still do not meet our specifications and are returned to the supplier.

There are of course some marketers who cut corners and use contract manufacturers who may not be testing their raw ingredients, but I doubt that GNC would allow that to happen with their products.

Below I have reproduced some quotes by Dr Daniel Fabricant PhD the CEO and Executive Director of the Natural Product Association and former Director of the Dietary Supplement section of the FDA.

If you feel strongly about this matter then please let it be known to AG Schneiderman.  Thank you.

Quotes from Dr Fabricant.

 “The full details and data the New York Attorney General found through the DNA tests have not been made available to the public. We do not know exactly what was tested, and no labels of products have been shared. The Natural Products Association has confirmed with one of the retailers, GNC, that every product tested was a botanical extract, in which DNA is unlikely to be intact, making that test not fit for purpose. Therefore, if the study is using the wrong tool, that hardly seems newsworthy or beneficial for consumers.

In addition, we do not have any insight into how reference materials were selected to compare the products in this study. We also do not know how products were obtained or sampled, nor do we know the chain of custody of said products. What’s interesting is that in keeping with the federal regulations for dietary supplements, ingredient identity testing is a requirement, as are the use of reference materials to establish identity, so it’s peculiar that a study to evaluate quality isn’t consistent with parameters of what’s required by the federal regulations for quality. Also, per these same regulations, manufacturers are given flexibility in testing decisions, and may or may not choose to use DNA barcoding, as it may or may not always be appropriate. Nevertheless, they have requirements on testing for identity that are required by law, and if those requirements aren’t met, the government can and does take action, ensuring consumer protection is in place. Thus, it is unclear as to why the New York Attorney General is making this request.

We encourage the New York Attorney General’s office to release the full study details promptly, and look forward to reviewing them thoroughly. Consumers should know that supplements are a safe part of a balanced approach to a healthy lifestyle that includes good diet and exercise, and they should consult with their doctor or health care professional before making any changes to their health care regimen.”

Dr Fabricant made the above statement on the 3rd Feb but there appears to have been no response from the New York AG.

Here is what Dr Fabricant had to say on the 13th Feb in response to the subpoenas.

“There are already federal laws and statutes in place to require dietary supplement firms to only make claims that are truthful and not misleading; obtain competent and reliable scientific evidence for claim substantiation; and file a 30-day structure/function notification for each claim that they make for dietary supplement products. The New York attorney general should be inquiring about this information with the Food and Drug Administration, as the agency should already have this information at hand.

Moreover, the products being investigated by the attorney general contain some of the most widely researched ingredients in the industry. Ingredients such as St. John’s Wort, Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng and Echinacea have droves of scientific research behind them, which is readily available on ClinicalTrials.gov. The multiple clinical studies on these types of products support and substantiate the physical benefits of these ingredients made in structure/function claims.

If Attorney General Schneiderman were properly informed in this area, he would have pursued action against products making egregious weight-loss claims or those with ingredients with little science behind them, as that is exactly what the Federal Trade Commission does and with much success. Since the attorney general appears to be more focused on making headlines than actually protecting consumers, he foolishly went after ingredients with hundreds of clinical studies behind them, substantiating the claims, an illogical and irresponsible tactic for law enforcement.

The Natural Products Association views this latest action from Attorney General Schneiderman as yet another form of harassment against an industry that serves hundreds of millions of Americans safely and effectively each day. The attorney general is using these subpoenas as a misdirection, removing focus from the fact that he still has yet to release the data from the DNA study he used as the basis for his original cease-and-desist.

We thank all industry members and consumers who have participated in our call for transparency by emailing, tweeting and calling the attorney general, requesting he release his study data. The NPA grassroots campaign appears to be working and we must keep the pressure on. Every individual who takes, sells or manufactures these products must speak up and let the attorney general know that we will not stand for these actions. It is imperative that Attorney General Schneiderman provide the details of his data, including the reference material library, before this issue morphs into yet a different angle and moving target in his attempt to castigate the entire industry.”

NPA has setup this page to help us demand transparency:
View the article from NPA "Protect Consumer Access to Supplements - Tell New York Attorney General to Release DNA Study Data"

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