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FDA Swats Sale Of Yellow Jackets

Health regulators are cracking down on Yellow Jackets, an herbal product promoted as an alternative to illegal street drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday it was stopping imports of Yellow Jackets, e-mailing the Dutch operator of an Internet site selling the pills that it is illegal to market dietary supplements as alternatives to cocaine and other street drugs.

Yellow Jackets contain the herb ephedra and other stimulants such as caffeineating kola nut extract.

The FDA's warning came a day before the parents of a teenager who took Yellow Jackets and died were scheduled to testify before a Senate hearing on the broader issue of how safe any ephedra-containing supplements are.

Ephedra is an herb that is legal to sell as a dietary supplement — popular for weight loss and body building — as long as that street-drug claim isn't made. But even legal ephedra is highly controversial, linked to dozens of deaths. Some critics have asked FDA to ban all ephedra, and the government has begun a criminal investigation of whether one U.S. manufacturer lied about the herb's safety.

The Yellow Jackets issue is separate, focusing not on ephedra safety but on illegal marketing.

"There does not appear to be any legitimate use for this product," the FDA said in a warning letter e-mailed to the Dutch operator of a Yellow Jackets Web site.

"Consumers should not purchase or use these or similar products available through the Internet or elsewhere," FDA Acting Commissioner Lester Crawford said.

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