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Clicks stands by questioned GNC products

By Staff Writer
United States-based company General Nutrition Corporation (GNC) has been accused of selling fraudulent and possibly dangerous products that do not contain the ingredients that are listed on the label.
 
There are claims that some of the ingredients, which have not been highlighted on the packaging, could result in allergic reactions. As the products have not been properly labelled, according to the New York Attorney General, the concern is that consumers would not be aware that the GNC product could potentially make them sick.
 
GNC's products are available in South Africa and Clicks has the exclusive distribution rights for the company's herbal products. In acomment on 4 February, the general manager of GNC South Africa Sean Kristafor said that the tests which resulted in these negative findings were not appropriate, and the company would not be removing its products from the market.
 
In a statement from the public relations company (Magna Carta) that represents Clicks, it states that all the GNC products that are sold in South Africa are compliant with South African law and have been cleared by the Medicines Control Council (MCC).
 
It adds that GNC stands behind the quality, purity and potency of all ingredients listed on GNC products, but the company will be voluntarily removing five of its herbal products from shelves in its stores in the state of New York. GNC will then respond to the New York State attorney-general's questions on the standards and procedures followed in authenticating product content and on finished product testing results based on validated testing protocols.
 
"GNC is confident that its response will demonstrate that the five products in question are fully compliant, safe and properly labelled. GNC is hopeful that the Attorney General's staff will promptly reach the same conclusion. GNC expects to again make these products available to their customers in New York State after providing the State a reasonable time for review," the statement adds.
 
The investigation
 
The tests were conducted in the United States using DNA Barcoding. This testing makes use of short genetic markers to classify or identify what something is, for example, what plant products are used in the supplements.
 
These tests were conducted on the store-brand supplements of four national retailers in the United States, including GNC. Twenty four bottles of the products were tested, which claimed to contain seven different herbal products. But the results revealed that five products contained a different plant ingredient which had not been listed on the label, or showed DNA signifiers that were unrecognisable.
 
The attorney-general of New York Eric Schneiderman has ordered retailers, including Walmart and GNC, to withdraw their products from the shelves, issuing each of them with cease-and-desist letters. Kristafor said in a statement: "GNC stands by the efficacy of its products. It has removed them in New York but not elsewhere."
 
One of the problems with herbal supplements is that they are not subject to the same regulatory standards and procedures as other pharmaceuticals in South Africa.
 
According to GNC, its products are tested using approved methods and the tests that were carried out by the office of the New York attorney-general were not in line with these tests. The tests that GNC conduct are approved by the US Pharmacopeia and the British Pharmacopeia, whereas the ones in the investigation are not.
 
The products
 
The GNC products that were tested include: Gingko Biloba, St John's Wort, Ginseng, Garlic, Echinacea and Saw Palmetto.
 
The results showed that only one bottle of Saw Palmetto and the Garlic product, out of the total of six GNC supplements that were tested (a total of 24 bottles), actually tested positive for the ingredients listed on the labels.
 
The other supplements showed traces of powered rice, spruce and legumes, rather than the herbs and ingredients stated on the product's label.
 
There are four GNC stores in South Africa in addition to the 165 Clicks stores that stock the supplements. For a list of all GNC stockists click here.

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