US safety watchdog to US FDA: “Add warning labels to ginkgo biloba supplements”

636620549953087005herbal supplements (2).jpg

16 May 2018 --- The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is urging consumers to avoid supplements made with ginkgo biloba, which they claim can be adulterated. They propose that the supplement is ineffective in improving memory and circulation. The agency has compiled a letter to the FDA’s Office of Dietary Supplement Programs requesting warning labels on ginkgo packages.

Ginkgo biloba’s benefits are often cited as including improved cognitive function, positive mood, increased energy and improved memory. For example, NutritionInsight recently reported on a plant-based formula called WakeUp, which included ginkgo biloba extract. 

However, CSPI say that six out of ten ginkgo supplements analyzed this year by the independent supplement testing organization,, failed quality tests. They found the pills to have less gingko than advertised or, there was evidence of spiking with a cheaper material. The findings follow announcements from The American Botanical Council (ABC), the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research concluding that “economically motivated adulteration of Ginkgo extracts is an ongoing problem in the dietary supplement industry.”

“Even if people choose to overlook the evidence that ginkgo does not supply the benefits that its manufacturers claim, all supplement consumers need to know that it’s anyone’s guess how much, if any, ginkgo is in a given pill,” says CSPI regulatory affairs director Laura MacCleery. “The FDA should take enforcement action to protect consumers.”

The leaves from the ginkgo trees are very pricey, and a large quantity is needed to produce a sufficient extract. CSPI use examples of some manufacturers using buckwheat extract or other plant extracts which contain a chemical that can fool some tests for ginkgo, to augment or replace more-expensive ginkgo, according to the ABC. “Industry experts agree that the adulteration of ginkgo extracts is intentional,” says Stefan Gafner, the council’s chief science officer, in a monograph on ginkgo.

In December, CSPI urged the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission to take enforcement action against companies claiming that their dietary supplements can help ease the symptoms of withdrawal from opioid pain medication. In January, the FDA and the FTC notified 12 companies that they must stop making those kinds of treatment claims.

NutritionInsight has reached out to CSPI and for further comments on the issue.

Transparency in the herbal supplement industry
Products making false health claims are a blight on the food industry, consumers and of course, manufactures. In a bid to address ingredient adulteration and transparency issues on the botanical market that can erode consumer trust, supplier of clinically researched botanical ingredients Gencor initiated a range of new partnerships. Its goal is to provide ease of mind to brand manufacturers and access to thoroughly vetted partners backed by in-depth quality assurance documentation. However, the process against adulteration on the market is on-going.

NutritionInsight also conducted a key interview with Umasudhan, CEO of Valensa, who spoke in detail about the “uneven playing field” created on the market from false claims on saw palmetto products.

To contact our editorial team please email us at

Related Articles

Health & Nutrition News

Sleep supplement: Som Sleep granted Non-GMO project status

14 Aug 2018 --- The market for sleep supplements in the booming supplement industry is huge, with Americans spending an estimated 41 billion dollars on sleep aids in 2015 alone. Som Sleep, who offer ready-to-drink supplements Som Sleep Original and Som Sleep Zero Sugar, report that the market is increasingly demanding naturalness and announce that Som Sleep has received official Non-GMO project status.

Health & Nutrition News

Protein boost for Boost: Nestlé ups the content in flagship “adult nutrition” product

14 Aug 2018 --- Nestlé’s flagship adult nutrition high protein drink, Boost, now packs an even bigger protein punch. The company has increased the protein content of Boost in the US from 15g per serving to 20g – a protein increase of 33 percent – in a bid to appeal to the 51 years and older demographic. The use of protein as a source of strength and recovery aid is no longer limited to marathon runners. This is clear as nutritional demands from the senior demographic spurs higher protein NPD.

Regulatory News

Pesticide Testing: NSF International updates dietary supplement certification standard

14 Aug 2018 --- NSF International and the NSF/ANSI 173 Joint Committee have updated the pesticide testing requirements included in NSF/ANSI 173, the only American National Standard for dietary supplements. A recent NSF study established chemical-specific pesticide limits for 185 pesticides that might be present in botanical ingredients used in dietary supplement ingredients.

Health & Nutrition News

UK women of childbearing age falling short on key micronutrient requirements, survey finds

13 Aug 2018 --- The micronutrient intake of women in their childbearing years, as well as young people in general, fall short in key micronutrients such as magnesium and selenium. UK researchers note that improvements in dietary quality are needed in young adulthood and mid-life. Alongside this, fortification and supplementation strategies may be considered to help adults achieve dietary targets at this life-stage when they should be at their “nutritional prime.”

Health & Nutrition News

GOS holds dietary fiber potential: FrieslandCampina eyes new applications

13 Aug 2018 --- FrieslandCampina is targeting the dietary fiber opportunity for its Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS). The move comes in response to the recent FDA green light on specific dietary fibers which presents new market opportunities and application areas. “There is a lot of interest in clean, green and label-friendly ingredients and fiber is one that they are looking for, but in good tasting applications. This really means a lot more flexibility for formulators to offer something that has both prebiotic and fiber benefits,” Sarah Staley of FrieslandCampina tells NutritionInsight on the topic of GOS as a trending prebiotic fiber.

More Articles