GNC agrees to DNA testing of supplements

by jeeg 31. March 2015 00:01


GNC has agreed to implement new procedures in all of its 6,000 stores nationwide to authenticate its herbal supplements, following accusations from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that the company was selling tainted and mislabeled products.

In reaching what Schneiderman’s office is calling a “landmark agreement,” the Pennsylvania-based vitamin and supplement chain has agreed to perform DNA barcoding on the “active” plant ingredients used in its products; implement testing for contamination with allergens, both before and after production; and post prominent signage advising consumers of the processed, chemical nature of extracts, Schneiderman's office said in a release. 

"When consumers take an herbal supplement, they should be able to do so with full knowledge of what is in that product and confidence that every precaution was taken to ensure its authenticity and purity,” Schneiderman said in the release. “When it comes to consumer health, we expect companies to reach a high safety bar." 

GNC, Target, Wal-Mart and Walgreens received letters from Schneiderman’s office in February asking them to immediately stop selling store brand herbal supplements in their New York locations.

The accusations prompted Senate Democrats Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) to request that the Food and Drug Administration to do a nationwide investigation.

The lawmakers have long advocated for stricter rules for dietary supplements.

Durbin said then that FDA needs to “take steps to protect all American consumers from an industry shown to be selling products they know are at best, ineffective, and at worst, truly harmful."

On Monday, GNC said it had restored its assortment of Herbal Plus products to all of its New York stores and that its products were in full compliance with the FDA’s current good-manufacturing practices.

In a news release, GNC said rigorous internal and third-party tests have proven their products are safe, pure, properly labeled, in full compliance with all regulatory requirements and contain all herbal extracts listed on their respective labels.

GNC said it will implement DNA barcoding where appropriate prior to the extraction processes.

Industry groups have criticized the DNA barcoding technology, which the attorney general used to test the drugs. Because the material containing DNA cells is typically removed and at the very least damaged in making a supplement, the Council for Responsible Nutrition has said DNA barcoding methods could have been inappropriately used on botanical extracts. 

Though lawsuits were filed against GNC as a result of Schneiderman’s accusations, the company said it will “defend itself aggressively” against those lawsuits, which it believes are “completely without merit.”

Lydia Wheeler, The Hill



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