The American Supplement company GNC have agreed to have DNA testing to authenticate its supplements, after accusations that the company sells misleading products.

GNC gave the go ahead to implement new procedures in all of it 6,000 stores in the US to verify its herbal supplements, following allegations from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that the company was selling tainted and mislabelled products.

This verification of the vitamin and supplement chain will involve DNA barcoding on the ‘active’ plant ingredient used in its products, utilising testing for contamination with allergens, both before and after their production. This will result in the company being obliged to post signs advising consumers of the processed, chemical nature of extracts according to a press release from Schneiderman’s office.

The press release also states: “When consumers take a 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. When it comes to consumer health, we expect companies to reach a high safety bar.”

Stricter Rules for Dietary Supplements

The original accusations from Schneiderman’s office were made in February, mirroring the thoughts of many law groups across the country advocating for stricter rules for dietary supplements. It is arguable that for many years the supplement industry has been significantly under-regulated, largely benefitting the companies that make and sell the products as they did not have to meet particularly high standards of quality and regulations.

GNC have been spotlighted in this specific case, but they are most certainly not the only company that could potentially have the ability to sell tainted or mislabelled products. In cases where supplement companies have misleadingly sold products it is not only deceitful but it can also be dangerous in some cases too. Senate Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Dick Durbin suggest that this calls for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to step in with a nationwide investigation.

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

As for GNC in particular they have restored their herbal products to all of its New York stores and say that its products were in full compliance with the FDA’s current good-manufacturing practices. In a press release they said rigorous internal and third-party tests have proven their products are safe, pure, properly labelled, in full compliance with all regulatory requirements and contain all herbal extracts listed on their respective labels. They will also implement DNA barcoding where appropriate prior to their extraction processes.

Further DNA Barcoding on Dietary Supplements

Hopefully for consumers, other groups accused by Schneiderman’s office will meet the same criteria, with Wal-Mart (who own Asda), Target and Walgreens also being asked to immediately stop selling store brand herbal supplements in their New York locations. They will also most likely feel the pressure to conduct DNA tests on their products if they wish to prove their quality. However, industry groups have criticised the DNA barcoding technology, because the material containing DNA cells is usually removed or damaged in making a supplement.

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