The Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus has been registered as a Congressional Member Organization for the 116th Congress, according to an official letter submitted to the Committee on House Administration.
The letter says that the Caucus will “serve as an informal, bipartisan group of Members to facilitate discussion among lawmakers about the benefits of dietary supplements, provide tips and insights for better health and wellness, and to promote research into the health care savings these products provide.”
Ingred Lebert, senior director of government relations at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), told WholeFoods that these discussions involve 3-4 educational briefings per year, on issues chosen by the Caucus in collaboration with industry associations, of which CRN is one.
Lebert said that this Caucus is full of people happy to champion the industry. She said that the co-chairs specifically—John Curtis (R-UT), Andy Harris (R-MD), and Martin Heinrich (S-NM), Tony Cárdenas (R-CA) and Tim Scott (S-SC)—had seemed heavily interested, and that not all of the industry’s champions had even chosen to be part of the Caucus.
Regarding the briefings, Lebert said that first of all, it’s difficult to predict what issues will take precedence. Potential candidates are getting a multivitamin into SNAP, which may have failed in the Farm Bill but which the industry isn’t counting out yet; funding for Office of Dietary Supplements programs; or issues relating to SARMs, selective androgen receptor modulators used as performance enhancers in the sports world. That said, she notes, “This caucus may end up telling us what they want to know about, what they want to do,” and of course, if a big issue pops up that takes precedence—well, it’ll take precedence. “All these possibilities are possibilities, not guarantees,” she said.
And then, of course, there’s hemp. CBD, which is potentially of most interest to retailers, is under the FDA’s jurisdiction. “I don’t think the FDA will sit on their hands regarding hemp,” Lebert said, “but if they need a little push, folks on the caucus can handle that.” And where hemp does fall under Congress’s jurisdiction, the Caucus can make a big difference. “There’s a patchwork of hemp-related laws over various states across the country, and that’s not helpful to retailers or to anyone,” Lebert said. “It would be great if we could get some preemptive Federal laws, that could standardize things across the country.”
Lebert ended with an assurance that CRN is working to grow membership in the Caucus this year, as it “continues to be one of the best ways for the dietary supplement trade associations to educate and share information about dietary supplement legislation and regulation with members of Congress and their staff.”