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DOJ seeks to block Port Washington company from selling dietary supplement products

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a complaint to block a Long Island dietary supplement company from selling risky products to consumers and failing to identify ingredients in them.

The complaint seeks a permanent injunction against Confidence USA Inc. in Port Washington for allegedly not following good manufacturing practices and for producing what the government said are adulterated products.

Confidence USA sells more than 50 types of dietary supplements, which it markets through a website, branding itself as “a leader in nutraceutical research and development.” It sells supplements under a variety of names, including Confidence USA, American Best, USA Natural, and The Herbal Store. Justice Department officials filed the complaint Thursday in U.S. District Court at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Dietary supplement makers put consumers’ health at risk by distributing products without first verifying that those products actually are what they claim to be,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt, of the Justice Department’s civil division.

This is the second time in recent years Confidence USA has been cited by federal officials. In 2012, U.S. marshals seized batches of dietary supplements and unapproved medications produced by the company. At the time of the seizure, the FDA said the company marketed products that played on people’s fears of serious illness and the belief that dietary supplements  would help.

A man identifying himself only as “Vinnie”, who answered the company’s phone Thursday, said he could not speak for the owners. Company president Helen Chian and manager Jim Chao were named in the government’s complaint. Vinnie said Chian had undergone surgery and has been away from the company for a year. He said Chao would respond to Newsday’s phone inquiry. The call, however, was never returned.

The government’s complaint emphasized that Chian and Chao repeatedly failed to verify the identity of each ingredient used in the manufacture of their supplements and also failed to verify that the products met specifications for purity, strength, composition and contamination limits.

Confidence USA manufactures a wide range of products, including supplements the company claims support the prostate gland, the brain and joints. Dietary supplement companies are barred by federal law from making medical claims. Confidence USA’s supplements cost from $24 to $75.

Among its products is one called Brazil Red Bee Propolis, for which the company makes medical claims saying the capsules “may help with immunity, cell proliferation, detoxification and anti-aging.”

Bee propolis is a resinous glue made by honeybees from their saliva and beeswax. Bees use it to seal gaps in their hives, but many people, dating back centuries have believed the substance is a cure-all for a number of human ailments.