Is Your Favorite Aloe Product Fake?
Consumers received some less than soothing news this week when Bloomberg released a report questioning the authenticity of many popular aloe products. The publication hired a lab to test store-brand gels from Wal-Mart, Target, and CVS, only to find that most of them contained no aloe at all.
“There’s a lot of people that swear by aloe and love it, and if you put it in your product, you’ll sell more of it whether it’s a cream or a lotion for sunburns,” Gary Shreeve of Forever Living Products, a company that sells certified aloe goods, told Bloomberg,
By using a method called nuclear magnetic resonance, the lab searched the gels for key chemical markers that would indicate the presence of aloe. But according to Bloomberg, “Aloe’s three chemical markers—acemannan, malic acid, and glucose—were absent in the tests for Wal-Mart, Target, and CVS products… The three samples contained a cheaper element called maltodextrin, a sugar sometimes used to imitate aloe.”
Despite the report’s blistering findings, the three retailers denied the allegations, as did Fruit of the Earth, the company which manufactures the aloe salves for Wal-Mart and Target. But other independent testing groups have also identified many common aloe products that fall short of labeled claims. And after doing their own tests (with results similar to Bloomberg’s findings), a number of law firms have reportedly been building class action lawsuits on behalf of retail customers who bought bogus aloe.
So how can you, the consumer, figure out if that aloe you’re slathering on your rash is the real deal? Being that the FDA doesn’t truck in cosmetics vetting and average shopper doesn’t have access to nuclear magnetic resonance, it’s not always easy to verify over-the-counter products. But there are a few ways to get an edge on unscrupulous cosmetics retailers: First, remember that cheaper products might save you a buck, but also might be inexpensive for a reason. “Aloe is all harvested by hand,” Jeff Barrie, a sales manager at AloeCorp, which sells raw aloe powder, told Bloomberg. “It’s an involved process and it’s not cheap.”
Subscription-based websites like Consumerlabs.com also offer members access to in-depth, testing-based reviews of popular products like aloe gels. And in the drugstore aisles, you can look for the seal of the International Aloe Science Center, a nonprofit industry group that tests and certifies aloe products’ authenticity.
Bloomberg’s findings echo other probes into over-the-counter goods at large drugstore and market chains, which have found that herbal supplements, for example, also often contain none of their advertised ingredient. All this highlights the need for better consumer protections and increased pressure—from both watchdog groups and regulatory agencies—to keep drug store products safe and honest.
For more details, read Bloomberg’s full report here.