First Wave of Reactions to Proposed Dietary Supplement Safety Act

Several industry companies and associations responded to the Dietary Supplement Safety Act (DSSA, S3.002) in full force.
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WholeFoods Staff
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Washington, D.C.—Last month, WholeFoods reported on proposed legislation sponsored by Arizona Senator John McCain (R-AZ) that would redefine dietary supplements and place new burdens on the dietary supplement industry. In the weeks that followed, several industry companies and associations responded to the Dietary Supplement Safety Act (DSSA, S3.002) in full force.

North American HerbOne leader in the area was supplement maker Jarrow Formulas, which is taking steps to educate the public about the bill and encourage them to take action if they disagree with it. The company is making use of the Web in this endeavor; it intends to post a position paper about it on Facebook, blogs and Google. Jarrow Formulas also is making YouTube videos and store posters that urge people to speak out against the bill. Says Trish Mahon, director of marketing, “We will instruct people to petition McCain’s office directly via phone and email. We are looking at Facebook ads that direct people to a page on the Jarrow Web site that educates consumers about the various provisions of the proposed legislation and its potential impact on their access to health and wellness products.”

Education about this issue is also the focus on radio waves. On one show hosted by Jarrow’s director of advertising and communications, Mark Becker, listeners were urged to visit Web sites such as the Alliance for Natural Health (www.anh-usa.org) and the Natural Solutions Foundation (www.healthfreedomusa.org) “in an effort to have them send a letter to their congressman.” The company’s president, Jarrow Rogovin also appeared on several syndicated shows to raise awareness about the issue.

NOW Foods is offering retailer support on its Web site (www.nowfoods.com/HealthLibrary/AdvocacyCenter/index.htm) to raise awareness in their stores. Available for download is a Stop DSSA poster and bag stuffer that explains to shoppers what action they can take if they oppose the bill. The company also gave McCain a written statement in response to the legislation.

Industry associations were hard at work, too.
• The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA)’s voted to oppose the bill as a group, noting that it “is redundant in some places to current laws” and creates additional unnecessary burdens for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “without any reciprocal benefit.”

• The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) told WholeFoods Magazine that it was “concerned with the way that the legislation was described” on the Senate floor by McCain, and much information about the bill’s contents was left out. In response, CRN sent a letter to McCain’s office, in which the group told the senator he mischaracterized the dietary supplement industry and his description of his bill on the floor. The letter pointed out that the group supports annual registration of supplement facilities with FDA, giving the agency mandatory recall authority plus more funding to enforce its authority. But, CRN pointed out several “onerous provisions in the bill that do, in fact, fundamentally alter the regulatory structure and limit consumer access” (though McCain stated it does not). One such provision would require dietary supplement retailers to obtain substantiation from the makers of all products it sells (and introduces civic penalties for non-compliance). Rather than jumping through this hoop, many stores may stop selling supplements.

• The Natural Products Association (NPA) held a teleconference to talk about the troubling provisions of the bill and how they could affect the industry. NPA CEO John Gay described what NPA is doing to stop the DDSA, which included establishing a section on www.npainfo.org through which 18,000 people have already sent e-mails opposing the bill to legislators; encouraging participation in Natural Products Day; and attempting to limit co-sponsorship of the bill by sending e-mails to senators and working with its industry champions. “We believe Senator McCain is feeling the heat. Just recently, he sought out our champions in the senate asking how they could work together…that’s a positive sight…but we shouldn’t let up pressure on the senate and on Senator McCain,” stated Gay.

Just before press time, McCain backpedaled on the bill, withdrawing support for it on March 4. The battle isn’t over, however, as the bill is still on the table and McCain wants to see several provisions added to the Food Safety Bill. See this month’s Legal Tips (p. 43) for additional comments from legal editor Scott Tips.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2010