WHITE PLAINS, NY, July 11, 2000 - Out of 22 brands of ginseng dietary supplements evaluated by eight were found to contain high levels of specific pesticides, some of which also contained significant levels of lead. In addition, three of the eight contaminated products did not meet standards for their ginseng content, as did five other products. This is the seventh major dietary supplement Product Review reported by, which independently tests the popular dietary supplements sold in the U.S.'s Ginseng Product Review focused on two related types of ginseng — American and Asian (typically labeled as Asian, Chinese, Korean, or Panax ginseng). Ginseng dietary supplements are taken primarily to improve energy. Products were purchased through retail stores, on-line retailers, catalogues, or multi-level marketing companies. Ginseng and other dietary supplements, which now represent $14 billion in annual sales, are not considered drugs in the U.S. and do not require testing for quality by any governmental or independent agency prior to sale.

Products were tested for their levels of ginsenosides (key markers for the quality of ginseng) and for potential contamination with the heavy metals lead, cadmium and arsenic and the pesticides hexachlorobenzene, quintozene, and lindane. Hexachlorobenzene is a probable human carcinogen and has been banned from most food crop uses throughout the world. Quintozene and lindane are potential carcinogens that may also be toxic to various organs and are not generally allowed for use on food products in the U.S.

Contamination with the pesticides hexachlorobenzene and/or quintozene was found in eight of twelve products labeled to contain "Korean Ginseng" but was not found among the other ginseng products tested. Among these eight contaminated products, levels of quintozene and hexachlorobenzene were as much as twenty times higher than allowed by guidelines published by the United States Pharmacopeia and the European Pharmacopeia, and two of these products also contained significant levels of lead. None of the products tested contained unacceptable levels of the heavy metals arsenic or cadmium, nor of the pesticide lindane.

Among the nine products that passed's independent testing, all were found to meet the State of California's strict standard for lead contamination. A list of the products that passed, as well as more information about the testing, is available at

"This is first time that the majority of products reviewed have failed a Product Review," said Tod Cooperman, M.D., President of "We have found many supplements in the course of our work that simply don't have what they claim. What is most frightening here are the products that contain what they shouldn't. It is grotesquely ironic that individuals hoping to enhance their well-being with ginseng are, with some products, exposing themselves to potentially harmful substances. "

To further assist consumers, is licensing its flask-shaped Seal of Approved Quality for Asian or American Ginseng to manufacturers and distributors to use on products that passed testing. will periodically re-evaluate these products to ensure their compliance with its standards. In addition, manufacturers and distributors may request the testing of products not already tested. The list of ginseng products that have passed testing will be continually updated.'s recent Product Reviews have included ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto, glucosamine, chondroitin, SAM-e, and vitamin C. By year-end, Product Reviews of creatine, calcium, multivitamins, CoQ10, vitamin E, echinacea and St. John's wort will also be released at and through other Web sites and media licensed by Next year, plans to publish the first annual edition of's Consumer's Guide to Supplements in print form. is a provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health, wellness, and nutrition. The company is privately held and headquartered in White Plains, New York. It has no ownership from or interest in companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products. Parties interested in purchasing comprehensive Product Review Technical Reports, licensing content or requesting testing of additional products may contact Lisa Sabin, Vice President for Business Development, at More information about is available at

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