From The Daily Kos—written by Hunter:
The news that a New York state attorney general’s investigation found that the overwhelming majority of so-called “nutritional supplements” sold by some of the biggest retailers in the nation contained none of the actual ingredient they were supposed to be “supplementing” once again raises the question: Is the health supplement marketplace America’s Most Crooked Industry?
The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies. […]Three out of six herbal products at Target — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid — tested negative for the herbs on their labels. But they did contain powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. And at GNC, the agency said, it found pills with unlisted ingredients used as fillers, like powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, a hazard for people with allergies.
“Houseplants” is a nice touch, although the news that the highly priced placebos may or may not contain unlisted ingredients that could kill some people is probably the one more worth focusing on.
Savvy attorney generals across the nation will hopefully repeat the experiment in their own states; the nutritional supplement industry makes money hand over fist—possibly due to the savings that can be achieved by putting little or no actual active ingredients in the products being sold—and the opportunities for high-profile fraud prosecutions could provide an easy boost to political profiles and state budgets alike. It also ought to end for once and for all this notion that the supplement industry needs no regulation. On the contrary, calling something a “supplement” has been adopted as the millennial version of ye olde snake oil.
In the meantime, you probably want to stop taking supplements. If the biggest brands in the industry don’t know or don’t care what’s in those bottles, the nice fellow selling you pills over the internet isn’t likely to give a damn either. You might call to inquire as to sending the unused portion of your pills to Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has been the industry’s champion in exempting themselves from FDA regulation under the banner of we don’t feel like doing that, and maybe he’ll be able to direct you as to how best to get a refund. Go on, give his office a call right now. He’s a bona fide expert in this stuff.
(Note: Do not actually send your unused pills to Orrin Hatch. The industry doesn’t give a damn if those things end up being “mostly anthrax, some filler” but you can put a lot of stuff in your stomach that would be a felony to send to a senator. They’re a bit stuffy like that.)