In Memoriam: James Turner, Citizens for Health, 1940-2022

Washington, DC—James S. Turner, Esq., Chairman and President of Citizens for Health
(CFH), passed away suddenly at his Washington, D.C. home on January 25, 2022, at the age of 81. CFH shared the news of Turner’s passing, and highlighted his many contributions to the industry.

Turner, who was one of Ralph Nader’s original “Nader’s Raiders,” co-wrote the 1970 book The Chemical Feast. As CFH noted in its tribute to Turner, after the book’s release Time Magazine wrote that it “may well be the most devastating critique of a U.S. Government agency ever issued.”

In 1973, Turner joined with David Swankin, a former aide to White House Consumer Advisor Esther Peterson, to create the law firm of Swankin & Turner. He was an active principal in the firm for nearly 50 years until his death. Turner’s bio on the Swankin & Turner website says The Ohio State University School of Law graduate represented businesses, individuals and consumer groups in a variety of regulatory matters concerning food, drug, health, environmental and product-safety matters, and his work led him to appear before every major consumer regulatory agency, including the FDA, EPA, and FTC. He also served as special counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Food, Nutrition, and Health and to the Senate Government Operations Subcommittee on Government Research.

Turner began to take a leadership role in CFH in 1992, serving as Chairman and President of the consumer organization for many years until his death. A few of Turner’s major contributions to the industry over the years, as outlined by CFH:

  • He was instrumental in winning passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).
  • He helped start Consumers for Dental Choice in 1996. This in turn led an international
    coalition of environmental, dental, and consumer groups to gain adoption of an antiamalgam provision in the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
  • He collaborated on the successful push to convince the FDA to send the New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) Draft Guidance back to the drawing board.
  • He collaborated on number of citizen petitions to the FDA, including one calling for the FDA to reverse its approval of sucralose, and another calling for FDA action to protect the public from the illegal, mislabeled use of high fructose corn syrup.
  • He played a key role in mainstreaming the practice of acupuncture, serving as lead attorney on a petition to the FDA that resulted in the classification of acupuncture needles as medical devices “safe for general use” by trained acupuncture practitioners, and in legalizing the importation and distribution of acupuncture needles in 1996.
  • He represented dentists ordered by state licensing boards to withhold information from their patients about the effects of mercury in dental amalgam fillings, including risks to patients, dental workers, and the environment. CFH reports that Turner’s advocacy was vindicated by a FDA Safety Communication on dental amalgam in 2020.
  • He served as a consumer consultant to and sat on advisory boards and committees
    of governmental agencies and business groups, including the Food Safety Council,
    Americans for Homeopathy Choice, the National Commission for the Certification of
    Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), and Voice for HOPE (Healers of Planet Earth).

“Jim has been one of the most powerful and articulate voices and leaders in health freedom
and consumer choice,” said James Gormley, Vice President and Senior Policy Advisor of DFH. “We look forward to honoring Jim’s vision by continuing the vital work that Citizens for Health does on behalf of all Americans.”

AHPA also shared the news of Turner’s passing, noting that in recent years Turner focused  on communicating a message of unity to counter political and social differences, and co-authored Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life, in 2008.

“Jim was a force to be reckoned with in the health freedom community for over half a century,” said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. “He would commonly greet me by asking, ‘Are we winning?’ and it is certain that all who care about freedom of choice in healthcare have won a lot over the years through Jim’s leadership and wisdom, and his advocacy for activism and cooperation.”

Turner is survived by his law partner and life partner of 45 years, Betsy E. Lehrfeld, Esq., his son Christopher B. Turner, Esq., and his daughter, Victoria M. Turner. In lieu of flowers, the Turner family requests that donations be made to the Citizens for Health Education Foundation.

Remembering more industry leaders: 
In Memoriam: Steven Foster, Renowned Herbalist, Photographer, Author
In Memoriam: Paul C. Ross, Bioforce USA
In Memoriam: Marlene Lacy, A Way of Life Natural Foods, 1936-2021