Thursday, February 5, 2015

Target, Walmart Selling Fake Ginkgo, Garlic, Ginseng Thanks to Political Loophole

This week, the New York State Attorney General charged Walmart, Target, Walgreens and GNC with selling "mislabeled" and "adulterated" dietary supplements.  

No surprise, at least to Fake Food Watch readers.  (See below for my list of other dietary supplements that should also be investigated by authorities... ) 


Many health supplements are fakes. Most, actually. Frauds. Bogus, pricey bait for consumers.  Neither effective, nor worth the billions Americans waste annually in vain hopes of improving their health. 

That's because "These drugs are not subject to the F.D.A.’s approval because of a loophole in a 1994 federal law (spearheaded by Utah Sen Orrin G. Hatch who received funding from supplement makers), fraudulent products can easily reach consumers without accountability or oversight," per Salon.com.    


Republican Sen. Hatch berated 2012 proposed legislation created to force greater accountability in the lucrative dietary supplement industry. 

Sen. Hatch bitterly railed against an amendment that would ..."require facilities engaged in the manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding of dietary supplements to register with the FDA, provide a description with a list of all ingredients, as well as a copy of the labeling for each dietary supplement product.  Additionally, the facilities must also register with respect to new, reformulated, and discontinued dietary supplement products. 
While I appreciate my colleague’s commitment, his amendment is based on the misguided presumption that the current regulatory framework for dietary supplements is flawed..."  (Source - U.S. Senate website of Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah)
Findings of the New York State Attorney General?  Of 390 DNA barcoding tests performed on 78 samples of 24 generic products sold at the four retailers: 
  • At Walmart, "4 percent actually contained the ingredients listed on the label."
  • At Walgreens, 18 percent contained the listed ingredients.
  • At GNC, 22 percent contained the listed ingredients.
  • At Target, 44 percent contained the listed ingredients.
  • (Source - Food Safety News)
Each sample was tested five times; samples were selected from all regions of New York state. The dietary supplements tested were garlic, ginseng, gingko biloba, St. John's wort, echinacea, valerian root, and saw palmetto.

Even I'm amazed at the incredible array of fake fillers found in these supplements in lieu of ingredients listed on the labels. "In many cases, the authorities said, the supplements contained little more than cheap fillers like rice and house plants, or substances that could be hazardous to people with food allergies," per the New York Times.

Specific ingredients found in supplements tested often included:


  • Dracaena, a houseplant (right photo)
  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Spruce
  • Pine
  • Palm
  • Wild carrot
  • Grass
  • Allium, from the garlic family
  • Radish
  • Daisy
  • Mung bean
Friends, don't waste your hard-earned money on dietary supplements. The industry is barely regulated. And profiteers, of course, prey on this regulatory loophole to line their rich pockets at your expense and the expense of your health hopes.

Among other products I urge state and federal regulators to also investigate for misleading consumers about the health benefits and/or ingredients are:

Raspberry ketones - See "Raspberry Ketones: Another Industrial Food Quasi-Scam?"

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