AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 4, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The New York State Attorney General (AG) Eric T. Schneiderman has issued a press release stating that his office sent cease-and-desist letters to four major retail chains informing them they must stop selling certain herbal dietary supplements that were found problematic in DNA barcoding tests conducted for the AG's office.
Store-brand supplements from GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart, including herbal supplements labeled as echinacea, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, saw palmetto, St. John's wort, and valerian, were tested. According to the press release, allegedly only 21% of the store-brand herbal supplements contained DNA from the plants listed on the products' labels.
The New York Times contacted the American Botanical Council (ABC) for comment regarding the AG's action. The following statement was submitted but not included in any of the Times' coverage of the issue thus far:
The AG's study is not based on adequate science and its actions are thus premature. The use of DNA barcoding technology for testing of the identity of botanical dietary supplements is a useful but limited technology. DNA testing seldom is able to properly identify chemically complex herbal extracts as little or no DNA is extracted in many commercial extraction processes. Acting on the basis of only one testing technology from only one laboratory, the NY AG results are preliminary and require further substantiation. Additional testing using microscopic analysis and validated chemical methods should be conducted to confirm the initial results.
Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC chief science officer and technical director of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program, emphasized that although some extracts may contain DNA, it is often of low quality or degraded making it impossible to perform proper authentication. Additional or other processing may also impact the quality and may lead to erroneous results using DNA methods.
"The best way to determine the identity of botanical materials and ingredients in finished supplements is to use a range of appropriate methods whenever possible," he added.
According to ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, "From a scientific perspective, it appears that the NY AG is way out in front of the available scientific evidence to support and substantiate his position." He added: "Only if the AG's studies are confirmed by using appropriate analytical methods and protocols should the AG (and Food and Drug Administration) pursue appropriate legal and regulatory enforcement options. Based on what we can determine, that hasn't occurred here."
ABC also issued a longer version of this release, available here.
About the American Botanical Council
Founded in 1988, ABC is a leading international nonprofit organization that addresses research and educational issues regarding medicinal plants and beneficial fungi. ABC's members and stakeholders include researchers, health professionals, consumers, nonprofit organizations, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry members, and others in more than 80 countries. The Austin, Texas-based organization publishes the peer-reviewed quarterly journal HerbalGram, monthly and weekly e-newsletters, summaries of scientific and clinical publications, reference books, and other educational materials, including the new Botanical Adulterants Monitor newsletter. ABC manages the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program, an international consortium of nonprofit professional societies, industry trade organizations, analytical laboratories, industry members, and others committed to increasing awareness of the quality and authenticity of botanical raw materials, extracts, and essential oils in the marketplace.
ABC is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. Information: Contact ABC at P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX 78714-4345, Phone: 512-926-4900. Website: www.herbalgram.org. Contact: Public Relations.
SOURCE American Botanical Council