I shared the story last week on the findings from the attorney general. It was difficult for me to believe because of our tight labelling laws. Things have become extremely questionable since then. The state’s attorney general used the wrong test when he declared some herbal supplements don’t contain any herbs. The test he used was a DNA test.
The move came after DNA testing commissioned by the attorney general’s office allegedly found the products either did not contain the labeled ingredient or contained substances that were not listed on the label.
According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC), DNA testing is not a valid method to test finished products. The association condemned the attorney general’s actions as “uninformed, reckless, and inexcusable.”
“These actions today by the New York State Attorney General’s (AG) office smack of a self-serving publicity stunt under the guise of protecting public health,” says Steve Mister, president and CEO, CRN. “Supposed concerns about the products in question are based on a novel testing method that has been roundly criticized by botanical scientists who question whether DNA bar coding technology is an appropriate or validated test for determining the presence of herbal ingredients in finished botanical products.”
DNA testing is the wrong method for a variety of reasons, says Mister, including that DNA can be damaged or removed during manufacturing of botanical products, and that DNA testing does not provide information on the actual amount of food contaminants found in a product, which could possibly be tiny.
Harvard’s Dr. Pieter Cohen isn’t any fan of supplements. He’s been labeled a critic. Others have said he’s an enemy of the industry. While it’s true he’s leveled some very vocal criticisms in the past, he’s now voicing a different criticism. This time, he’s taking aim at the test results from the New York attorney general’s office.
Many of the supplements the attorney general had tested were extracts, where the DNA is often removed. So of course the DNA test wouldn’t find any DNA.
The New York Times said, “Dr. Cohen at Harvard said that the attorney general’s test results were so extreme that he found them hard to accept. He said it was possible that the tests had failed to detect some plants even when they were present because the manufacturing process had destroyed their DNA.”
But this situation has gotten even worse. The media, in an attempt to trump up the charges against supplements, have given false reports about the safety of supplements. The New York Times said, “In 2013, for example, an outbreak of hepatitis that struck at least 72 people in 16 states was traced to a tainted supplement. Three people required liver transplants, and one woman died.” That’s not accurate. The people he’s referring to were afflicted because of mistakes from a compounding pharmacy. These are not standardized supplements you buy at the store or online. These are specifically mixed ingredients from a pharmacy. They are quite different from regular supplements.
Don’t let the media or the NY attorney general fool you into thinking supplements are dangerous. Consider this: According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS) there were zero deaths in 2008 from any vitamins, minerals, herbs, or amino acids. In 2009, one person died from an “unknown supplement.” That means it was a supplement the poison center had never encountered – and you never will either.
These numbers are truly remarkable given that over half of the people in the U.S. take nutritional supplements every day. If each of these people took only one tablet daily, that’s over 154,000,000 individual doses every day and over 56 billion doses every year. And most people take far more than one tablet each day. I know I do. Supplements are incredibly safe. Their safety is proven.
I am happy that Dr. Cohen can see the falsehood in this attorney general’s report and called them to do their job. However, if they did their job, most drug companies would be out of business. That’s because conservative statistics say that over 106,000 people die from normal use of prescription drugs every year. Those numbers do not include overdoses or inappropriate use of prescription drugs. And yet they escape without even a glance from any attorney general. At the same time I know supplement companies would be shut down if they caused a tiny fraction of those deaths. In fact, the NY attorney general is trying to shut them down because he doesn’t know what a viable test is.
The media, in an attempt to trump up the charges against supplements, have given false reports about the safety of supplements. To quote The New York Times in 2013, “An outbreak of hepatitis that struck at least 72 people in 16 states was traced to a tainted supplement. Three people required liver transplants, and one woman died.” The people refered to were afflicted because of mistakes from a compounding pharmacy. These are not standardized supplements you buy at the store or online. These are specifically mixed ingredients from a pharmacy. They are quite different from regular supplements. So don’t let the media or the NY attorney general fool you into thinking supplements are dangerous.
It is time the media and I report the truth about this attorney general and begin to question his agenda.