GNC, the vitamin and supplement chain with a location in practically every town, is introducing a new set of testing protocols for its herbal supplements—and it could affect the barely-regulated industry in a big way.
The announcement comes about two months after the New York State Attorney General’s office accused four retailers—including GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart—of selling herbal supplements that didn’t actually contain the herbs listed on the labels. (Say what?)
“GNC is adding another layer of testing for herbal supplements beyond what the FDA requires—and that’s a good thing,” says Tod Cooperman, MD, the president of ConsumerLab.com, a third-party organization that evaluates supplements. “The FDA regulations for supplements focus on ensuring that companies make the product the same way each time, but the rules do not focus on the quality of the ingredients in the products.”
That leaves it up to each individual company to conduct their own tests and create their own standards for quality, he explains.
According to the New York Times, GNC’s new quality-control measures will include advanced DNA testing to authenticate the plants used in store-brand herbal supplements and to test for common allergens. It will also provide more detailed information in stores and online about how the products were made and processed.
All of this is being done to satisfy the Attorney General’s office, even though many in the industry, including Cooperman, found flaws with the methods used in the initial report. “The test they used was inappropriate for looking at herbal extracts,” he says.
Still, it’s a step in the right direction towards taming the Wild West-like supplement industry, he says. “I do think other retailers should implement additional measures like this.” Now, they may feel the pressure to do so. —Molly Gallagher
Will this influence how you purchase herbal supplements? What are you curious about when it comes to supplements? Tell us, in the Comments, below.