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April 2, 2015

Miller Urges Congressional Probe, Stronger Herbal Supplement Industry Oversight

Miller, state attorneys general raise concerns about authenticity, purity and safety of some retail herbal supplements


(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller and a bipartisan group of state attorneys general today urged congressional leaders to investigate the herbal supplements industry and asked Congress to consider strengthening the Food and Drug Administration’s industry oversight.

“People should be able to rely solely on labels when buying and using herbal supplements, and there are growing questions about whether some supplement labels are misleading consumers,” Miller said. “The questions include whether a supplement really contains what the label claims is in the product, what else is in the product that’s not listed, its amount and its purity.”

In February, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman raised concerns about the marketing and safety of some supplements, following an investigation. According to Schneiderman, DNA tests on certain retail supplements found that products were contaminated with allergens, off-label plant species, potentially dangerous substances, and did not contain herbs listed on the labels.

Under federal law, the multibillion dollar herbal supplement industry is subject to far less oversight than the pharmaceutical industry.

In a letter to the leaders of the subcommittees with product safety and health oversight, Miller and a bipartisan group of 14 state attorneys general urged Congress to address the following issues:

  • The adequacy and effectiveness of existing quality assurance measures for verifying the source, identity, purity, potency, and quality of ingredients and fillers;
  • The adequacy and effectiveness of existing regimes for verifying the identity, composition, purity, potency, and quality of the finished products sold by domestic manufacturers and retailers;
  • The degree to which product labels and marketing, including the use of the terms ‘natural,’ ‘herbal,’ and ‘extract,’ mislead consumers about the contents of herbal and dietary supplements, and whether the FDA should develop standards and restrictions governing their use;
  • The extent to which Congress should mandate, or direct the FDA to develop enhanced, uniform, industry-wide quality assurance and verification regimes to guarantee the source, identity, purity, and potency of materials incorporated into herbal and dietary supplements; and,
  • The extent to which Congress should mandate, or direct the FDA to develop, enhanced manufacturing and supply chain management requirements for the industry to guarantee the safety and efficacy of the finished herbal and dietary supplements.

“The FDA has long been aware of problems in the dietary and herbal supplement supply chain, from dubious ingredient sourcing to a failure to carry out proper testing on finished products,” the letter said.

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