The New York state attorney general's office recently accused dietary-supplement retailers of putting deeply flawed products on shelves for consumers. According to the state investigation, some "herbal supplements" made fraudulent claims, while some others included potentially dangerous unlisted ingredients.
The New York Times reports today, however, that the largest retailer in the industry is taking steps to address safety concerns.
GNC, the country's largest specialty retailer of dietary supplements, has agreed to institute sweeping new testing procedures on its herbal products that far exceed quality controls mandated under federal law. [...]
Experts said the announcement marked an initial but significant step forward for the $33 billion-a-year supplement industry, which is loosely regulated and plagued by accusations of adulteration and mislabeling.
GNC will reportedly begin an 18-month process subjecting its products to "additional quality-control measures," which will include "advanced DNA testing to authenticate all of the plants that are used in its store-brand herbal supplements."
The retailer's progress will be worth watching, but it's worth pausing to consider some more fundamental questions, such as why it was a state investigation, and not a federal one, that sparked the recent controversy. For that matter, why is it that GNC's announcement is the result of voluntary actions, as opposed to required safeguards imposed by regulatory agencies?
That's where the story takes an interesting, and more political, turn -- and attention turns to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has long shown a great interest in the subject.