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Critics of Attorney General Schneiderman’s actions say he is acting beyond his authority by going after supplement manufacturers.
It’s only been a few weeks since New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman made headlines with his controversial move ordering retailers to pull certain store-brand herbal supplements from shelves, but he’s not finished yet. Now the attorney general is investigating dietary supplement manufacturers themselves in his continuing crusade against the supplement industry.
On Monday, the attorney general’s office sent letters to four manufacturers whose products include the supplements for which Schneiderman initially targeted retailers earlier this month, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP). Pharmavite (Mission Hills, CA), NBTY (Ronkonkoma, NY), Nature’s Way Products (Lehi, UT), and Nutraceutical Corp. (Park City, UT) all received letters from the attorney general requesting a slew of documentation on their manufacturing practices.
“As part of a broader investigation, NYAG is reviewing the sufficiency of the measures manufacturers and retailers are taking to independently assess the validity of their representations and advertising in connection with the sale of herbal supplements,” Schneiderman’s letter says.
Among its many requests, the attorney general’s letter to manufacturers asks for detailed descriptions of analytic testing used to validate content and quality of both ingredients and finished products, measures to ensure quality through every step of the supply chain, and testing done to substantiate claims of “gluten-free” and “hypoallergenic” on labeling. For each component of a supplement, the attorney general requested the name, concentration, country of origin, and extraction method, according to the AP report. The letter also requests all documentation be provided by March 13.
A few of the brands that these four manufacturers produce include Nature Made, Sundown Naturals, Nature’s Bounty, Vitamin World, Nature’s Way, and Herbs for Kids.
On February 2, Schneiderman ordered Walmart, Walgreen’s, Target, and GNC to stop selling herbal supplements such as ginseng, echinacea, St. John’s wort, and more after DNA testing commissioned by the attorney general’s office allegedly found that the products did not contain the labelled ingredients. His office also subpoenaed the retailers with a request for further evidence to substantiate health claims on the products.
Since then, industry associations, such as the Council for Responsible Nutrition (Washington, DC), have condemned Schneiderman’s investigation as a “publicity stunt” that inappropriately applies DNA testing to finished products, when really the method is only effective for use on raw materials. With this latest turn toward manufacturers, it’s clear that Schneiderman has no intentions of backing off. However, his move was met with a swift response from several trade associations.
“This is a massive fishing expedition and highly disruptive to these companies’ daily operations that are all part of the clearly defined federal regulatory structure for dietary supplements,” said Loren Israelsen, president, the United Natural Products Alliance (Salt Lake City, UT), in an official statement. “We continue to be mystified as to why the N.Y. AG has chosen to do FDA’s job. We regret to see this misplaced use of the AG’s time and taxpayer money and the red tape created for reputable supplement companies that are simply trying to do the right thing.”
Daniel Fabricant, CEO and executive director for the Natural Products Alliance (Washington, DC), and former director of FDA’s division of dietary supplement programs, said in a press release that “the federal government is fully equipped to regulate dietary supplements.”
“It is perplexing as to why Attorney General Schneiderman continues to use resources to address dietary supplement matters, which do not fall within his authority and are already handled by the regulators within the federal government,” said Fabricant. “The attorney general seems more motivated by generating headlines and plaintiff’s cases than by protecting the public health.”
The attorney general’s office has yet to release the study data that led to the action against these retailers and manufacturers. Fabricant urged the supplement industry to continue to push for Schneiderman to release the report.
“If actions such as this are permitted, they will surely branch out to other commodities and industries,” said Fabricant. “As the attorney general’s actions evolve, it’s imperative that we continue demanding transparency and requesting his office release the study data.”
Nutritional Outlook magazine
Photo © iStockphoto.com/kiankhoon
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