No Evidence of Aloe Vera Found in the Aloe Vera at Wal-Mart, CVS – Bloomberg
Samples of store-brand aloe gel purchased at national retailers Wal-Mart, Target and CVS showed no indication of the plant in various lab tests. The products all listed aloe barbadensis leaf juice — another name for aloe vera — as either the No. 1 ingredient or No. 2 after water.
There’s no watchdog assuring that aloe products are what they say they are. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve cosmetics before they’re sold and has never levied a fine for selling fake aloe. That means suppliers are on an honor system, even as the total U.S. market for aloe products, including drinks and vitamins, has grown 11 percent in the past year to $146 million, according to Chicago-based market researcher SPINS LLC.
“You have to be very careful when you select and use aloe products,” said Tod Cooperman, president of White Plains, New York-based ConsumerLab.com, which has done aloe testing.
Aloe’s three chemical markers — acemannan, malic acid and glucose — were absent in the tests for Wal-Mart, Target and CVS products conducted by a lab hired by Bloomberg News. The three samples contained a cheaper element called maltodextrin, a sugar sometimes used to imitate aloe. The gel that’s sold at another retailer, Walgreens, contained one marker, malic acid, but not the other two. That means the presence of aloe can’t be confirmed or ruled out, said Ken Jones, an independent industry consultant based in Chapala, Mexico.
Target Corp. declined to comment. Spokesmen for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said their suppliers confirmed to them that their products were authentic. The four retailers have 23,000 outlets between them.
The four gels that Bloomberg had analyzed were Wal-Mart’s Equate Aloe After Sun Gel with pure aloe vera; Target’s Up & Up Aloe Vera Gel with pure aloe vera; CVS Aftersun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel; and Walgreens Alcohol Free Aloe Vera Body Gel. The lab that did the testing requested anonymity to preserve its business relationships.
The tests used a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance. It found additives such as maltodextrin and other ingredients, like triethanolamine, an emulsifier. In all the samples, lactic acid, a component that indicates degraded aloe vera, was absent.
Fruit of the Earth, a Fort Worth, Texas-based aloe brand founded in 1980, said it made the gels for Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreens. Fruit of the Earth said its aloe supplier was Ormond Beach, Florida-based Concentrated Aloe Corp., which said it uses fair trade, organic aloe that’s farmed and processed in Guatemala.
Both companies disputed Bloomberg’s findings.
“We’ve been in the business a long time and we know where the raw ingredients come from,’’ John Dondrea, Fruit of the Earth’s general counsel, said in a telephone interview. “We stand behind our products.’’
Tim Meadows, president of Concentrated Aloe Corp., said that nuclear magnetic resonance isn’t reliable for cosmetics because the presence of multiple ingredients can cause interference and there’s no way to test for aloe in finished products. He added that maltodextrin isn’t an adulterant because it can be used in the drying process, and while some ways of processing aloe remove acemannan, that doesn’t mean the aloe isn’t real, he said.
“Acemannan has been misinterpreted,’’ Meadows said. “The cosmetics industry requires highly processed aloe. How that affects acemannan is anybody’s guess.’’
Though it’s true that nuclear magnetic resonance isn’t a test that’s designed to study aloe vera in cosmetics, the lab results suggest that the plant “is not a major component” of the products, said James Neal-Kababick, director of Flora Research Labs in Grants Pass, Oregon, which tests and researches natural products. Jones, the consultant who also reviewed some of the tests, said he didn’t see evidence of aloe or interfering substances.
The CVS aloe gel was made by Product Quest Manufacturing LLC. The Daytona Beach, Florida-based firm declined to comment or identify its supplier.
Several law firms, including Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Barbat, Mansour & Suciu PLLC, have filed lawsuits against the four retailers after separate testing failed to find aloe in the companies’ private-label products. They’re seeking class-action status and restitution for all the customers who they say were misled.
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“No reasonable person would have purchased or used the products if they knew the products did not contain any aloe vera,’’ attorneys wrote in a complaint filed in September in Illinois on behalf of plaintiffs represented by 10 law firms.