GNC is pulling products from New York shelves as Health Canada investigates claims that the health supplements are not what they claim to be.
DNA tests conducted by the New York attorney general's office showed many natural health supplements did not contain the ingredients they advertised and also contained ingredients that were not on the label, according to cease-and-desist letters sent to four retailers: GNC, Walmart, Walgreens and Target.
In response, GNC announced late Wednesday night that it will temporarily be pulling the products in question from shelves in New York while they respond to the attorney general's inquiry.
“GNC is confident that its response will demonstrate that the five products in question are fully compliant, safe and properly labeled,” said a statement provided by a GNC spokesperson.
In a letter dated Feb. 2, the attorney general asked that five supplements from the “Herbal Plus” line be removed from the shelves.
Those five products were:
• Ginkgo biloba
• St. John's wort
• Saw palmetto
Meanwhile, Health Canada said it is looking into the claims made by the attorney general.
“Should it be determined that there are non-compliant natural health products being sold in Canada, Health Canada will take appropriate action based on the risk posed to the general public,” said Eric Morrissette, a spokesperson for Health Canada.
GNC is the only retailer in Canada whose products were targeted by the New York office. Health Canada has not issued any advisories, warnings or recalls for GNC in the past decade.
Natural health products sold in Canada must be licensed by Health Canada, but it is up to the company to ensure that it is compliant with federal regulations, Morrissette said. If concerns about a particular product are raised, Health Canada may do on-site inspections, issue public advisories or seek product recalls.
GNC said the science used by the attorney general was faulty, and that they are in compliance with all Food and Drug Administration regulations.
In a New York Times article on the attorney general's investigation, Pieter Cohen, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, said the test results were extreme and that the tests might not detect DNA because DNA was destroyed in the manufacturing process. But, Cohen said, that did not explain the many off-label ingredients found in the products.