According to a recent report by the New York State Attorney General’s office, those store-brand St. John’s Wort tablets you bought may contain onion, garlic, rice and dracaena, but they are not likely to contain any St. John’s Wort. There has always been an uncertainty amongst customers as to what exactly is inside their tablets and capsules, and while some brands have invested more time and money into the testing of their products, the report shows that many others do not have the same high standard when it comes to product quality and, most importantly, customer safety.
To make matters worse, the culprits accused of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous supplements are not newcomers to the market; they are major US retailers who should simply know better. The stores that were named and shamed by the report include GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart, who have now all received cease-and-desist letters demanding that they remove a number of products from their shelves. The tests were carried out using a process called DNA barcoding, which uses a form of ‘genetic fingerprinting’ to help identify the individual ingredients contained within a product. The investigation looked at a total of 78 products from a dozen GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart store across New York State… and the results were truly shocking:
- In total, only 21% of the products contained plants that were listed on the labels and only 12.5% completely matched their ingredient list.
- Of the four retailers, Walmart was the worst offender with only 4% of products tested showing DNA from plants listed on the label.
- Target were least misleading with a 41% match, followed by GNC (22% match) and Walgreens (18% match).
- Overall, 79% of products contained an ingredient other than stated on the label.
- Alarmingly, this included the unreported presence of wheat and beans (both substances are known to cause allergic reactions in some people).
At FORZA, we routinely carry out product testing (both internally and externally) to ensure that our customers can have confidence in the quality and safety of their supplements. If you are not a FORZA customer, then here are a number of things to consider before purchasing your next supplement:
- Even though food supplements are generally safe to use, if you have any allergies then you need to be extra careful.
- There is often excellent scientific evidence behind food supplements – don’t believe the retailers who tell you that only medicinal products are backed by science.
- Beware of the ‘studies and trials’ that have been conducted by the companies selling the supplements themselves. It can hardly be surprising that the results are very positive for the particular product involved.
- Consider using brands that are recommended by doctors, dieticians or fitness experts. There are usually good reasons why these products are being recommended.
- Do some research, choose as wisely as you can and be willing to try other brands in one doesn’t seem to be working. This is exactly what you would do when takin a medication, so don’t be too worried if you don’t get it right first time).
- Despite this recent controversy, supplements are very useful and should not be overlooked. It just goes to show that the cheap and convenient store-brand products are the ones most likely to be using cheap fillers and unreliable suppliers.