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Herbal Supplements: Are you getting what you pay for?

The state of New York made a bold move this year and required major retailers (Target, Walmart, Walgreens and GNC) to recall their store-brand supplement lines as ongoing investigations revealed that only 21% of the supplements actually contained the material listed on their ingredient label(s) (Talsma, 2015). This is a step towards future regulation of supplements and vitamins as mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal.

What New York testing revealed:

  1. Target stores: gingko, St. John’s wort and valerian root contained no evidence of the herb mentioned on the label

  2. Walmart stores: only 1 supplement (saw palmetto) contained the actual product mentioned on the label

  3. Walgreens stores: no supplements consistently contained the product mentioned on the label

  4. GNC stores: only 1 supplement (garlic) contained the marketed level of herb mentioned on the label

How to know if your supplements are verified?

The best way to make sure you’re getting what you pay for is by purchasing brands stamped with the USP seal of approval.

As a pharmacist, misuse and mislabeling of supplements and vitamins is a major concern within our patient population. Between 2004 and 2012, more than half of all drug recalls were linked to dietary supplements. As there are no standards for accuracy and ingredient verification within the supplement industry, be cautious of what you are taking and where you’re spending your money.


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