New York (AFP) - Shares of nutritional supplement companies tumbled Tuesday as the US Justice Department announced civil and criminal charges against a number of smaller, unlisted producers.
The department unveiled the results of a year-long probe into companies selling supplements that contained ingredients other than those listed or made unproven claims of their effectiveness in health and disease treatment.
The main case involved criminal charges against USPlabs and top company officials over ingredients used and claims made about its Jack3d and OxyElite Pro supplements popular in workout and weight loss programs.
Another eight companies faced civil charges, many related to unsubstantiated claims about the effects of their supplements.
Although apparently untouched by the investigation, shares of publicly traded firms in the industry suffered.
GNC Holdings plunged, finishing down 6.4 percent to $29.07, Vitamin Shoppe shed 4.9 percent to $28.19, and Herbalife lost 0.8 percent at $54.43.
Earlier, when news came out that the pending Justice Department would announce criminal charges in the industry, the shares of all three plunged much farther.
GNC shares have been under pressure since Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced in October she was suing the company over its sale of dietary supplements that contained the unapproved synthetic chemicals picamilon and BMPEA.
The latter is a powerful stimulant sometimes used for weight loss or as a doping drug by athletes.
GNC said in response that the Oregon suit was without merit and that it took action to stop selling products with the two ingredients as soon as it learned they were not considered legal by the US Food and Drug Administration.