"If these findings are confirmed by the FDA, these products should not be sold as dietary supplements," Vitamin Shoppe said in a press release Wednesday.
"There's an unbelievably potent stimulant, a close relative, a brother of amphetamines -- that’s found in multiple different brands of supplements," Cohen, an internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, told ABC News. "But much more alarming than this is that even though the FDA has known about this for the last 2 years, they have done absolutely nothing to remove these supplements from the market."
According to the study, the Food and Drug Administration has known about BMPEA mislabeling since 2012, finding that 42 percent of 21 supplements claiming to contain Acacia rigidula contained BMPEA, but they did not disclose which brands they studied.
"While the European Food Standards Agency has cautioned against the consumption of Acacia rigidula products, the FDA has been silent," the researchers wrote. The FDA released the following statement in response to the study.
"The FDA's first priority with regard to dietary supplements is ensuring safety. As part of our overall work on detecting and removing adulterated supplements from the market, and ensuring that products are labelled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading, the FDA published research on the occurrence of BMPEA in Acacia rigidula supplements in 2013. While our review of the available information on products containing BMPEA does not identify a specific safety concern at this time, the FDA will consider taking regulatory action, as appropriate, to protect consumers."
Dietary supplements have come under fire in recent months.
"When consumers take an herbal supplement, they should be able to do so with full knowledge of what is in that product and confidence that every precaution was taken to ensure its authenticity and purity," Schneiderman said last week when GNC announced its more stringent testing guidelines.
On April 2, Schneiderman and 14 other attorneys general called on Congress to work with the FDA to inquire into the supplement industry.
Dietary supplements are not subject to the same safety and efficacy testing as drugs. A 1994 law called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act made supplement manufacturers responsible for safety and proper labeling -- not the FDA. The FDA does not approve these supplements before they hit shelves, according to the agency's website. Cohen said supplement manufacturers should at least need to prove BMPEA’s basic safety before putting it on store shelves.
"The bar is incredibly low," Cohen said. "It's practically right on the floor."
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group that represents dietary supplement manufacturers issued the following statement from its vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, Barbara Kochanowski:
“Today, millions of Americans use dietary supplements to support their overall health and wellness. CHPA wants to ensure consumers understand the difference between responsible manufacturers of these products and criminals who sell illegal products marketed as supplements. Supplement manufacturers are required to comply with good manufacturing practices, and CHPA members have a solid track record of doing this.
"Consumers must be able to trust that the information they read on the Supplement Facts label and ingredient list is accurate and that the dietary ingredients are safe. This study underscores the need for FDA to use its authority to crack down on rogue manufacturers that 'spike' their products with illegal or undeclared substances.
"CHPA encourages consumers to investigate the source before purchasing supplements and to only buy from legitimate companies with a strong reputation. We also encourage consumers to avoid products with 'too-good-to-be-true' claims."