The Illinois-based company discovered 11 different counterfeit NOW supplements on Amazon USA, which had been commercially available for about two weeks from a seller operating under the name of A2X1.
At first glance, these counterfeit products looked like NOW supplements, but closer inspection showed that the packaging, labels, and contents were falsified.
Some of the items were listed on Amazon as tablets or softgels, but consumers received small white #1 capsules, with an odorless white powder, which, after further analysis, was found to be white rice flour. The bottles were also labeled as capsules even in cases where NOW does not make or sell that product in that form, said the company in a release.
NOW also reportedly found trace amounts of the pharmaceutical Sildenafil in some samples, which is being reported to the FDA. NOW said it expects Amazon to do a recall of all items sold on Amazon by the seller A2X1.
“It’s enraging that these criminals are trying to cash in on trust in the NOW brand, earned over decades, to defraud consumers,” said Dan Richard, NOW Health Group VP of Global Sales and Marketing.
According to NOW, Amazon agreed to block all sales by the seller A2X1 on April 11. Amazon has introduced measures to help tackle counterfeit products on its platform, notably Project Zero, which was launched in 2019 to help "brands drive counterfeits to zero". NutraIngredients-USA contacted Amazon for a response to the new findings, but no comment was received prior to publication.
NOW has also asked the e-tailer to recall each item sold, and to provide NOW with a list of these consumers, plus inventory levels and information about the fraudulent seller.
Richard told NutraIngredients-USA that NOW spoke with Amazon late yesterday and asked for the customer list so that NOW could contact each consumer and explain the problem. Amazon doesn’t share that information, he said, but he was told the ecommerce giant will send out a fraud alert to the consumers and ask them to destroy the product.
Not just NOW…
While investigating this problem, NOW discovered that the same seller listed several vitamins from another prominent supplement brand as well. NOW has been in communication with that company and is working with them to get to the source of this problem.
“We remain on high alert regarding this problem and have contacted the FDA Health Fraud Brand division as well as Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit,” said Richard.
“Additional legal steps are being taken in order to find the source of the problem and put it out of business. However, we fear that these fraudulent products may reappear on Amazon by a different seller name, or on another platform or in other international markets.”
The fraudulent products found, so far, are listed below:
NOW Adam Male Multi 180 Softgels
NOW Apple Pectin 700mg 120 Veg Caps
NOW D-Mannose 500mg 300 Veg Caps
NOW l-Glutamine 500mg 300 Caps
NOW l-Lysine 500mg 250 Veg Caps
NOW Lutein & Zeaxanthin 50 Caps (Should be Softgels)
NOW Magnesium Citrate 200mg 250 Tabs (Product is Capsules)
NOW Mood Support 90 Veg Caps
NOW Psyllium Husk 500mg 500 Veg Caps
NOW Saccharomyces Boulardii 60 Veg Caps
NOW Valerian Root 500mg 250 Veg Caps
While this is the first time NOW has discovered counterfeit NOW products for sale on Amazon in the US, it is not a first for NOW worldwide, said Richard. "In the past five years, we have had multiple cases of similar fraud in Saudi Arabia and Brazil especially. Each time it takes a big effort from our lawyers to find the offender and prosecute, but this is something NOW, as the brand owner, must do."
NOW policing the supplements space on Amazon
NOW is no stranger to problematic supplements products on Amazon, with the company operating an ongoing testing program looking at products sold on the platform, which it has regularly shared publicly.
Until NOW began its testing program, however, few if any sources within the dietary supplement industry were willing to go on record to detail the problems. To date, NOW has conducted eight rounds of market surveillance in which products were purchased on Amazon and tested in NOW’s state of the art in-house lab as well as in a third-party lab.
The company has made the results of the tests public and has named the products and their manufacturers. Among the ingredient categories tested are curcumin, CoQ10, bromelain, SAMe, quercetin and others.
Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA during a recent visit to their Bloomingdale, IL-based facilities, Richard said: “We wish that Amazon did a lot [more]. So, the one thing they did is they changed their standards to require ISO-17025, certain documents for different brands, but for whatever they've done, the cheaters find a way to cheat. So, if you know what you're doing, it's not too hard to cheat, to copy lab assays, and put your name in and things like that.
“So, all the same brands who were cheating six years ago, they're still cheating today, I still see them on Amazon. Some of them change their labels to pretend to be legit. They're cheating. It's still going on. It's very frustrating. You don't want to see cheaters win.”