National Consumers League

Group praises NY investigation revealing ‘outrageous’ mislabeling of supplements at major national retailers


February 3, 2015

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League,, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his aggressive investigation of adulterated and fraudulent dietary supplements sold on the private labels of four major national retailers—GNC Target, Walmart, and Walgreens. The investigation revealed that supplements were mislabeled, some of which contained none of the ingredients they were marketed to contain. The investigation included 390 tests involving 78 samples, and found that just 21 percent of tested supplements identified DNA from plant species listed on the label.

“Hats off to the New York Attorney General for exposing this rampant consumer fraud. Americans are wasting millions of dollars on supplements that claim to contain ‘healthful’ ingredients when they do nothing of the kind,“ said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s executive director. Consumers must be able to trust the list of ingredients on the bottle; sadly, this testing reveals that information is far from reliable. Among other concerns, the millions of consumers with allergies may be in grave danger if ingredients are not listed on the label.”

NCL, the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, advocated for the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, the first significant consumer protection law, and continues to fight for a safe marketplace free of adulterated food.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires drugs to meet stringent regulations for safety and efficacy before they hit the market, dietary supplements are free of any such requirements.  Congress enacted legislation preventing the FDA from protecting consumers from harmful supplements and rejected any pre-approval process. As a result, the FDA must demonstrate that a product is unsafe before removing it. NCL supports legislation that would bring stronger oversight to the dietary supplements industry. 

The New York AG investigation found that 35 percent of supplements tested contained ingredients not on the label, including rice, beans, citrus, asparagus, wheat, houseplants, and others. The supplement industry contributes $61 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Natural Products Foundation. Supplements are consumed by an estimated 150 million Americans, according to a 2013 study from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“Dietary supplements have gained such mainstream popularity that they are a part of everyday life for millions of consumers,” said Rebecca Burkholder, NCL’s vice president of health policy. “Manufacturers and retailers must be held accountable for the aggressive, and at times, misleading promotion of these products. We welcome investigations such as Attorney General Schneiderman’s, and we call on the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute companies that are found to be selling bogus products to consumers in the name of health.”


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit