Senator Questions Memory-Support Supplements

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Washington, D.C. – A member of the U.S.Senate sent letters to 15 major retailers asking about the “sales of dubious dietary supplements, especially those promising seniors protection from memory loss, dementia and other age-related problems,” according to the Associated Press.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is questioning the process that retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Amazon, Google and Walgreens, use to weed out supplements that make false, misleading or unsubstantiated health claims. The Senator is particularly concerned about certain brain health products with names like “Brain Awake," “Dementia Drops” and "Food for the Brain"; the latter claimed to ease symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia that affects more than five million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another, Brain Armor, was said to protect against Alzheimer's, stroke, memory loss and other issues, and has since been pulled from Amazon.com after its legitimacy was called into question. 

“Frankly, I think there's a special place in hell for someone who markets a product and says it will cure Alzheimer’s,” McCaskill said in an interview with the Associated Press.“And that's essentially what these scammers are doing and they've had assistance in that.”

McCaskill also targeted regulatory authorities for not acting to take some of these products off the shelf after they had been shown to make false claims. In a letter to acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Stephen Ostroff, McCaskill expressed concern that “the FDA may not be effectively using its existing regulatory authority to adequately enforce the pre-market notification requirements for supplements containing new dietary ingredients."

McCaskill, who is a member of the Senate Aging Committee, which investigates health scams against older Americans, writes in a letter to Google’s CEO Larry Page that states, "As one of the leading search engines that now provides a retail function through Google Shopping, Google Inc. plays a pivotal role in determining what supplements are being used and trusted.”

The Senator has requested a meeting with several companies, including Kroger Co., GNC and Wal-Mart, to help “understand (their) policies and practices related to dietary supplements.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2015(online 6/18/2015).