Multiple lab tests of store-brand aloe gel from Walmart, Target, and CVS showed no traces of aloe vera, even though aloe vera juice is listed as the first or second ingredient in every case, according to an in-depth report Bloomberg published Tuesday. Instead, the samples included a cheaper additive, maltodextrin, which is essentially a sugar made from starch. It's often used as an aloe substitute, and can also be found in Jello and Splenda.
Bloomberg hired a lab to test four gels: Walmart's Equate Aloe After Sun Gel with pure aloe vera; CVS' Aftersun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel; Target's Up & Up Aloe Vera Gel with pure aloe vera; and Walgreens Alcohol Free Aloe Vera Body Gel.
Results showed that the three chemical markers for aloe were absent in Walmart, CVS, and Target's samples. The Walgreens sample included just one of the markers, suggesting that the presence of aloe could neither be confirmed nor ruled out.
Fort Worth, Texas-based Fruit of the Earth made the gels for Walgreens, Walmart, and Target. Daytona Beach, Fla.-based Product Quest Manufacturing made CVS's aloe gel. Fruit of the Earth disputed Bloomberg's findings, while Product Quest declined to comment to Bloomberg.
The Food and Drug Administration doesn't approve cosmetics before they are sold to consumers, which would allow an aloe-less aloe gel onto shelves without being stopped.
"We hold our suppliers to high standards and are committed to providing our customers the quality of products they expect," a Walmart representative told Fortune. "We contacted our suppliers and they stand behind the authenticity of their products."
"The quality, safety and integrity of our products is of highest priority to us, and we carefully select suppliers who share those priorities as well," Walgreens said in a statement. " Our supplier has assured us that the product’s ingredients match its labeling."
Target declined to comment to Fortune. We've reached out to CVS, Fruit of the Earth, and Product Quest for comment as well, and will update when they respond.