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It is that time of year where many of us turn to herbal supplements, either to care for lingering colds or to care for lingering pounds after the holidays. But just before the year ended, the FDA recalled a number of products that it determined were no longer fit for consumption. Many of these products were herbal supplements, which unlike drugs that the FDA approves, do not have to meet stringent requirements in order to be placed for sale. Many of the herbal supplements recently recalled by the FDA were sold by Herbal Science International, Inc. The recall was initiated because many of the products include ingredients that were not listed on the label. Other supplements were shown to contain ephedra, aristolochic acid, or human placenta – all which may present a serious health hazard to consumers. Along with the recall, the FDA issued reminders to consumers that over the counter supplements for health, cold care, or weight loss, are often not FDA approved. The recall of Herbal Science International’s products were conducted even though no reports of harm had occurred. The potential for illness or severe side effects, however, prompted the recall.

Another familiar supplement, Airborne, continues to be available in stores. While it has not been subject to a recall, consumers may be interested to learn that the product’s labels can no longer proclaim that it prevents or lessens the severity of colds. The company recently settled a lawsuit with 33 attorney generals who claimed that the Airborne company greatly over-exaggerated its ability to fight colds. The $7 million settlement includes funds ear-marked for consumer education related to supplements. Such education may include the fact that any product cannot make claims about the ability of that product –whether scientifically substantiated or otherwise – unless or until the FDA agrees. Such claims include “take at the first sign of cold symptoms” or others that imply that Airborne can prevent colds.

As with any product, research can help to provide consumers with additional information and possibly allow them to protect themselves. If you feel that you’ve been seriously injured by a product or supplement that you’ve been taking, and you’d like to know your rights, you may wish to speak with a products liability attorney.

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