Preston Clive
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Preston Clive in Preston Clive - THE IRRITATED AMERICAN, Wielding The Digital Hatchet,

Rolling A Little Herb & Snake Oil


 .  .  .  "And you don't even need a prescription." (IMAGE:

This morning comes the positively stunning on one hand--but unsurprising to the cynical and weatherbeaten side of the American mind that has seen em come and seen em go--announcement that the New York Attorney General's office is going to be pushing the four major health and drug retailers remove a series of herbal supplement lines from their shelves .  .  .  or else. 

GNC, Walgreens, Target, and Walmart, the retailers in question, are accused of stocking for retail sale herbal supplements that contained not a whit of the supplement indicated on the label. 

Check this out.  .   . according to a New York Times article, a popular brand of Walgreens ginseng pills, alleged to provide a concrete boost to vitality and endurance, contained little else than powdered rice and garlic. Nice huh?

Another product, sold as gingko biloba at Walmart, contained naught but "powdered radish, houseplants and wheat," and this despite the claim on the label that the product line was gluten free. Hope ya don't gag!

Three different products offered at Target--gingko biloba, St John's wort, and Valerian root-- contained not even a micro-gram of their corresponding ingredients. What they were found to contain were "powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots."

Another consumer hazard (a la wheat gluten) which could strike the buyer unawares was a slew of pills in their product line that contained, among other ingredients, unlisted fillers such as powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans: these are obvious red flags for buyers with allergies. But they can't avoid what they're not aware of.

It's quite obviously bad enough that these trusted retailers, deeply entrenched in the public's consciousness as a part of the very fabric of American life, have broken the public trust and foisted, at a pretty penny mind you, complete nonsense on the consumer .  .  .  charging the buyer for one thing but giving them something cheap and useless. But the real knife in the heart comes with the realization that these blatant ripoff schemes could come at the cost of the very health and even lives of those same consumers being ripped off. 

This smacks of the old days of the goldbricking huckster of the first half of the Twentieth Century, when travelling con artists would throw down tables in small towns and large metropolises alike, chirping "Step right up folks, step right up--that's it, make room for the little lady over there... NOW-- what I hold in my hand here is .  . . " giving snake oil sales pitches for miracle remedies "guaranteed" to cure everything from the common cold to menstrual cramps. Many products claimed to be miraculous remedies with wholly original concoctions--and in the end turned out to be nothing but opium dissolved in alcohol. It's schemes like this that led to the 1906 Food And Drug Act that prohibited misleading statements about the ingredients in a drug, and the subsequent Harrison act prevented manufacturers from slipping buyers addicting narcotics unbeknownst to them ("Hey! This stuff really works! I feel GREAT! Let's stock up on this stuff!").

One would have liked to think that we were past these days, when blatant fraud from wealthy retailers like GNC and Walmart would be as widespread to the degree of being virtually industry wide. It is obvious bad business--whatever savings are had via substituting cheap beans and radish for quality ginkgo biloba or ginseng can be wiped out via a single massive lawsuit from an allergy death .  .  .  or the collateral damage via the loss in consumer confidence resulting from this very scenario we're presently in the middle of. 

Even in this modern age, it is surprisingly easy for manufacturers to push these non-regulated "herbal supplements" containing blank vegetable matter on an innocent public. They're not reviewed like regulated drugs, there is no industrial benchmark and product testing. Pack it up and sell it--direct from factory to consumer. 

It's time for this to change, clearly. 

Cease and Desist letters have been sent out to the four stores.

Reprehensible. GNC stock is down 3.44% at the moment. Walgreens-Boots is down .35%. Target and Walmart are holding steady.

 Preston Clive