Let’s start by saying this as early and forcefully as I can. In my 25 years as a member of the natural products industry, we are facing perhaps our greatest challenges since our fight for the passage of DSHEA (and even that’s very much in play).
Think I’m overreacting, think again! If anything, I’m underselling it. This affects all aspects of our industry, from manufacturing, to the consumer. What scares me the most is that the segment most in danger of disappearing strikes me as the (seemingly) most apathetic-the natural products retailer.
As the newly minted President of the NPA East region, I have the duty and privilege of interacting with many of these at risk members. What concerns me greatly are the reactions I get. When I discuss attacks from members of Congress (Senators Durbin and Blumenthal), or Attorneys General (New York, Indiana, Oregon, etc.), I hear everything from “What are you talking about” (ignorance), to “I’m not worried, DSHEA will protect us” (Ostrich syndrome). WAKE UP PEOPLE!
Lobbying efforts at both the national and state levels have been effective (so far) at keeping the legislative wolves at bay. However, as 2016 unfolds (in a presidential election cycle no less), investigations are underway in as many as 12 states (and territories), and hearings have been taking place on Capitol Hill.
Ok, so enough with the negative. You’re asking yourself (hopefully), “What can I do about it?”
Great question let me try and lay it out for you.
1. Get off the complacency chair (pot, bed, whatever). You are not protected, you are at risk. Everything, including DSHEA is in play. Think back to 1992.
2. Get involved. DSHEA passed, because you got involved. Do it again. Many of the grassroots tactics we used then will work today.
3. Inform, educate, and explain. Many consults I have with organizations (from investment firms to civic groups) consist of myth busting:
A. There is indeed FDA oversight. If it doesn’t belong (DMAA, BMPEA), then they can order it off the shelves. They can shut down a facility for not being GMP compliant, they can (and have) put bad actors out of business. Most people don’t think this is so. TELL THEM!
B. Also tell them that the FTC has oversight as well. In many instances, they are willing to act against companies quicker, and with more force than the FDA. If you say it, it better be true, and within acceptable guidelines.
C. Explain that supplements haven’t been shown to kill or injure, if unadulterated, and taken correctly. Now, compare that to “FDA approved” drugs (Tylenol, Xarelto, or Oxycodone anyone?), and I’ll take our track record any day.
4. Get involved. Yes, I know I said it already. It bears repeating. Let me elaborate:
A. Join an organization. There is (without question) strength in numbers. While I (of course) want you to join NPA (East if you fall within our region, others if you don’t), there are many organizations at your disposal-AHPA, UNPA, CRN, etc. Not only are these trade organizations critical, they don’t cost much (retailer, trade member, or manufacturer). In fact, the dues you pay are not only deductible; I contend that they are an investment in your very survival. Worth it, I say without question!
B. Become active. Lobby Congress (NPA Lobby Day, anyone?), go to your state capitals, meet with your local representatives on all levels, and educate them. Get them to join caucuses (The Dietary Supplement Caucus on the Hill works for me). Get them to learn the truth.
C. Recruit others. Others can be retailers, your customers (yes, they count too), your suppliers, anyone. There is strength in numbers (again).
D. Contribute. I know we all want money, unfortunately, it’s the world we live in (thanks Citizens United). When they say “It’s not about the money”, it’s always about the money. The NPA has a PAC. It needs to be fed. FEED THE PAC! Donate to like-minded candidates. Not only do we need to cultivate new political relationships, we need to replace the ones that have left, or are leaving (where have you gone, Tom Harkin?).
My goal here is to stress how important this is to all of us. Even if some of it is tongue-in-cheek, I mean it. We work in a multi-billion dollar industry. That can all be taken away from those that made it thrive over all these years and handed over to big pharmaceuticals. We must take action to stop this. Many of you, like me, have put their heart and soul into the success of this industry. Some of you (like me) have been working in the industry so long that you probably have no other skills. Then what? My wife will only support me for so long. In short, do something, and do it now! Please?
Adam Goodman is the President of the NPA East region and Owner/President of Nature's Supplement Brokers Brand Development.
NOTE: The opinions presented here are those of the writer.
Published on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 3/2/2016