GNC defends ingredients in herbal products

Posted at 5:11 PM, Feb 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-09 15:06:57-05

GNC is defending the ingredients listed on its labels, even though the Pittsburgh health and wellness retailer plans to comply with a demand from the New York attorney general that it at least temporarily stop selling certain herbs and other products in its New York stores.

GNC issued a statement late Wednesday, saying that it is “standing firmly behind the quality, purity and potency” of ingredients listed on its labels.

The company was one of four called out by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this week.

Schneiderman sent cease-and-desist letters to GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart alleging the stores had sold herbal supplements whose labels listed products “that either could not be verified to contain the labeled substance, or which were found to contain ingredients not listed on the labels.”

A Walgreens spokesman said that chain will remove its products that are under scrutiny in all of its stores nationally, but it was unclear what actions Target and Walmart are considering.

The targeted GNC products were five “Herbal Plus” supplements: Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Gingseng, Echinacea and Saw Palmetto. According to the attorney general, DNA tests showed labels on those products matched the contents of products only 22 percent of the time.

Supplement industry groups such as the Natural Products Association and the Council for Responsible Nutrition have questioned the AG’s testing process. In a press release this week, the Natural Products Association said the GNC products in question were botanical extracts “in which DNA is unlikely to be intact.”

In their official statement, GNC officials said they test all of their products using approved methods. They also said they plan to provide the New York attorney general’s staff information on the company’s standards and procedures.

“GNC is confident that its response will demonstrate that the five products in question are fully compliant, safe and properly labeled.”

GNC employs just under 600 people at its corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh and has about 16,000 employees in 8,800 retail locations companywide.

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