Article Calls for Military AER System; CRN Calls It “Counterproductive,” “Wasteful”

A new article appearing in the Military Times is calling for an adverse event reporting system for military members, a concept which the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) is calling “redundant.”

The article states that “few people realize that many of these supplements contain ingredients that could make them dangerous to the very service members we depend on to keep our nation safe,” and notes that supplement use is higher in the Armed Forces than civilian populations, with more than two-thirds of service members using them weekly or more often compared to 50% of the general population. Specifically, bodybuilding, energy, pre-workout, and weight-loss supplements are commonly used by military personnel, but the article attributes that not just to occupational demands—it adds: “predatory marketing strategies targeting service members likely also influence their high rates of use.”

The article further explains that a series of adverse events that occurred a decade ago caused the Department of Defense to establish Operation Supplement Safety, which provides the tools and resources for service members and healthcare providers to make informed decisions about supplement use while reducing risk. OPSS offers an Ask-the-Expert portal, education, an up-to-date list of prohibited ingredients on its website, and an OPSS Risk Assessment Scorecard, but offers no way to track adverse events. The article states that “it is estimated that less than 2 percent of adverse events are reported to the FDA or to other appropriate systems,” and asserts that without a centralized reporting system in the military, DoD doesn’t have the data required to identify risky products—but that may change, due to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022, signed into law on December 27, 2021, which asks the DoD to address the gap in adverse event reporting.

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CRN’s President and CEO Steve Mister responded: “CRN enthusiastically agrees we all have a role in ensuring that supplements are safe for all consumers, including military personnel. Our comprehensive guide to choosing supplements includes advice such as being careful about how and where one purchases supplements, reading labels, learning about the products and ingredients, and consulting a doctor before adding a new supplement to a healthcare regimen.

“The current federal adverse event reporting system (AER) administered by FDA works. Creating additional federal bureaucracy to duplicate this effort inside the military is counterproductive and wasteful. CRN supports mandatory product listing, which will allow FDA to see all supplement labels and identify potential problems. Our members share our commitment to transparency and are required to submit information on all the products they manufacture and market in the Supplement OWL. Adding a redundant regulatory mechanism likely won’t address the underlying problem of spiked products, and would be a disservice to our military.”