NY Attorney General Forms Coalition in Case against Herbal Supplements


Three state attorneys general have rallied around NYAG Schneiderman in support of his investigation into herbal supplements.

Many questions have emerged in the weeks since retailers and manufacturers came under fire from New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman over the sale and production of certain herbal supplements. Beyond concerns about Schneiderman’s controversial use of DNA testing and lack of investigational transparency, one question has loomed large: Would this crusade against herbal supplements spread to other states?

Today it’s clear that the answer is “yes.”

This morning, Schneiderman’s office announced a coalition of state attorneys general in an “expanded probe of the herbal supplement industry.” Chaired by Schneiderman, the coalition includes Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, and Nery Adames Soto, secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

“The significant issues recently raised about herbal supplements are a concern that must be taken seriously so as not to further jeopardize the health and safety of people ingesting these products,” said Zoeller in a press release. “As state consumer protection advocates, my fellow attorneys general and I are focused on efforts to eliminate misleading and deceptive labeling for the benefit of consumers.”

Despite this latest support for Schneiderman’s cause, numerous scientists and industry associations have condemned the questionable science behind his investigation. On February 2, Schneiderman’s office ordered retailers 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 enough and/or any of the labelled ingredients. However, DNA testing may not be appropriate for evaluating finished products, as the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) was quick to point out.

By all appearances, Schneiderman ignored these challenges from CRN and other dietary supplement representatives. He continued his charge against the supplement industry with subpoenas to retailers requesting further evidence to substantiate health claims on products, and he extended his investigation to the supplement manufacturers. Yet, the attorney general’s office has still not released the study data that led to these actions.

In response to Schneiderman’s newly formed coalition, Steve Mister, president and CEO, CRN, issued the following statement: “The NY Attorney General’s office continues to ignore the scientific facts of his investigation, as well as the fact that botanical supplements are already properly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s ironic that he continues to call for transparency, when his office refuses to release its test results and methodology, which scientists familiar with botanicals and DNA testing say is inaccurate.”

Each of the attorneys general in the new coalition invoked public safety in their statements, but Mister sees “no safety issue that warrants this high level investigation and misuse of tax payer’s money.”

“It’s unfortunate that he has pulled other states into this misguided effort, because clearly these supplements are products that consumers find beneficial,” said Mister.

The attorneys now siding with Schneiderman say they are looking to his “leadership” in this investigation.

“The findings uncovered by Attorney General Schneiderman raise serious public health and consumer protection concerns potentially impacting consumers in Connecticut and across the country,” said Attorney General Jepsen. “I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership, and look forward to partnering with him and my fellow attorneys general on this coalition.”


Read more:

DNA Testing Is Valuable, Firm Says, Following Latest Dietary Supplement Controversy

Editor: New York Attorney General Case Warrants Strong Response, Supplement Leaders Say  


Michael Crane
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook magazine


Photo © iStockphoto.com/Bluberries

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