Doses of ginkgo, ginseng, & other herbs too tiny to justify wild claims

Herbal ice tea maker Arizona is making fraudulent claims of enhanced memory, reduced stress, and improved health on labels for its “Arizona Rx” line, according to plaintiffs in three states who are suing the company. They say that the doses of gingko biloba, panax ginseng, echinacea or other substances in Arizona Rx teas are too small to produce the advertised effects. And, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), it is unclear if any dose of the advertised herbs would warrant the kinds of extraordinary claims Arizona Rx makes on its labels.

The product line in question—which borrows the familiar “Rx” symbol for prescription drugs—includes Rx Memory, Rx Stress, Rx Health, Rx Power (a fruit punch, not a tea), and Rx Energy. Class action lawsuits filed in New York, Illinois, and California by Houston trial attorney Martin Siegel are seeking relief under those states’ laws governing fraud, false advertising, and deceptive trade practices.

“These so-called ‘tonics’ are designed to separate consumers from their money, not to prevent disease or enhance brain power,” said CSPI legal affairs director Bruce Silverglade, who also noted that Arizona Rx Energy packs 300 calories into a 20-ounce bottle. “If the FDA is unwilling or unable to crack down on this kind of quackery, consumers are perfectly justified in hauling a company like Arizona into court.”

Although in 2000 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to Arizona about its Rx line, the agency has not taken further action against the company. CSPI wants additional funding for the agency so it will be better equipped to crack down on misleading food labeling.

Recently CSPI has highlighted other examples of mislabeled products, including guacamole from Kraft that has almost no avocado, a “mushroom in origin” meat substitute called Quorn that is actually made from processed mold, and steaks from Laura’s Lean Beef that have twice the fat as claimed.