FDA Urged to Prohibit Sale of Ginkgo in Wake of Cancer Study

CSPI Says FDA Should Give Industry 30 Days to Take Products off the Market

June 3, 2013

Following a government report that the herbal ingredient Ginkgo biloba causes cancer in lab animals, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest is urging the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit its use in foods and dietary supplements. The watchdog organization says the FDA should give the industry a reasonable time to comply with such a directive and then seize whatever products remain on shelves to protect consumers.

A March report from the National Toxicology Program found "clear evidence" that Ginkgo caused liver cancer in mice and "some evidence" that Ginkgo caused thyroid cancer in rats. Researchers from NTP told the New York Times that the number of cancers found in the mice exceeded the numbers ever seen before in their lab. While the supplement industry argued that the NTP used an extract of Ginkgo not used in supplements sold in the United States, the NTP says the composition of the extract it tested falls within the range of what is sold.

"It used to be the case that the only problems associated with Ginkgo were the unfounded and deceptive claims by manufacturers that it helped memory," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Now we know these make-believe benefits are far outweighed by a real risk of cancer."

Citing the NTP report, the FDA has already told one beverage maker, Stewart Brothers, Inc., that Ginkgo is not generally recognized as safe in food. It is harder for the agency to remove supplement ingredients from the market, but it may if it finds that an ingredient poses an unreasonable risk of illness or injury.

Ginkgo is found in single-ingredient supplement pills made by Natrol, GNC, Solaray, Now, and Nature's Way, as well as in multi-ingredient products. It is used in some energy drinks, such as several varieties of Rockstar and Hansen's Energy Pro, Guru, and Steven Segal's Lightning Bolt, and in Redco Foods' Salada "Brain Boost" green tea and Yogi Tea's Ginkgo Clarity.


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