Supplement producer faces criminal charges

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Bottles of dietary supplements containing dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, sit in boxes in the Yokota, Japan, exchange store room in 2012 after the Army and Air Force Exchange Service pulled the supplements from the shelves while the Defense Department investigated a possible link between DMAA and the deaths of two soldiers. (Grant Okubo/Stars and Stripes)
From Stripes.com
Bottles of dietary supplements containing dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, sit in boxes in the Yokota, Japan, exchange store room in 2012 after the Army and Air Force Exchange Service pulled the supplements from the shelves while the Defense Department investigated a possible link between DMAA and the deaths of two soldiers. (Grant Okubo/Stars and Stripes)

Supplement producer faces criminal charges

by: John Vandiver | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: November 19, 2015

The maker of a top-selling workout supplement — whose products were once sold at military exchanges — will face criminal charges for the unlawful distribution of toxic substances, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

USPlabs LLC and several of its executives were indicted in connection with charges that it used a synthetic stimulant made in China to manufacture the supplements Jack3d and OxyElite Pro, rather than plant extracts as the company advertised, federal prosecutors said.

“They doctored packaging, labeling and other paperwork to defraud others about what the product was,” said Benjamin Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general. “The deception put lives at risk.”

For the military, there is a long history of concern over the potential dangerous side effects of workout supplements, which are popular among hard-training servicemembers. In recent years, various products have been pulled from shelves in the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Navy Exchange stores in connection with health concerns over stimulants contained in some products.

Four years ago, a variety of supplements containing the stimulant DMAA, including Jack3d and OxyElite Pro, were pulled after reports of soldier deaths. The families of two soldiers who died after taking the products in 2011 have sued USPlabs and those cases are pending.

Pvt. Michael Sparling and Sgt. Demekia Cola, both died at Fort Bliss, Texas, in 2011 after taking the supplements. Their families have sued USPlabs and GNC, a chain of health stores that specializes in supplements. Sparling took Jack3d, a bodybuilding and weight-loss supplement, just before a 3½-mile run. He collapsed, lost consciousness and began foaming at the mouth. He was pronounced dead several hours later.

Both GNC and USPlabs have repeatedly denied DMAA products pose a health risk.

In October 2014, the military pulled another group of products from exchange shelves, which contained a new stimulant called DMBA. That came after a new medical study on the stimulant, which stated DMBA caused unknown effects and could pose significant health risks.

Bodybuilding and weight-loss supplements are largely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

vandiver.john@stripes.com

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