Washington, D.C.—The Natural Products Association (NPA) shared news that the Rhode Island State Senate is quickly advancing Rhode Island Senate Bill 2613, which is currently on the agenda for a vote before the full Senate on Tuesday, May 31. The bill calls for limiting the accessibility of certain dietary supplements “to prevent the misuse or abuse of such products” and would required providing “a conspicuously posted notice at the purchase counter of the possible side effects of the supplements.” NPA noted that this legislation prohibits dietary supplements from being directly accessible to customers and mandates that only retail clerks may have access.
As WholeFoods has reported, several states are working to restrict access to weight loss supplements and OTC diet pills, putting them behind the counter and preventing those under the age of 18 from purchasing them. NPA has cautioned that these restrictions will have a negative effect on both people under the age of 18 and on small businesses: Teenagers will still be able to purchase the products online, where the products will not have been vetted by any retailer, while retailers will face the financial burden of rearranging or outright renovating to put products behind the counter.
Regarding the Rhode Island bill, NPA pointed out that it does not regulate internet sales of dietary supplements in Rhode Island, yet brick-and-mortar retailers would be required to post a warning sign at each purchase counter communicating that dietary supplements are known to cause serious adverse events, including stroke, organ failure, and even death. Failure to comply would result in a fine of up to $2,000 for each infraction.
“This is a terrible idea at the worst time,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., NPA President and CEO, in a press release. “As more Americans have turned to natural products for health and wellness during the pandemic, this bill would mean higher prices and longer wait times for consumers with absolutely zero health benefits. Retailers would be forced to move household items like multivitamins and nutrition products behind the counter or remodel their stores, and then hire more clerks when nearly everyone is struggling to find workers. Meanwhile, OTC medicine would still be in front of the counter and many of the exact same ingredients would still be available in grocery stores, coffee, and smoothie shops in the form of vitamin fortified foods and beverages. It is unfair, unnecessary and unwise.”
Rhode Island consumers would be the negatively impacted, Dr. Fabricant added. The state treasury would also take a hit, he said, due to lower sales tax revenue. Who would benefit from the bill? Connecticut store owners. Dr. Fabricant noted, since Rhode Island shoppers will make the trip to buy their natural products without the barriers.
Another concern raised by NPA: Legislators did not follow through on earlier promises to study the issue further, and officials did not seek industry input on such a significant legislative proposal.
“The natural products industry has been completely shut out of the conversation, which has been the antithesis of a democratic process,” Dr. Fabricant said. “It’s incredibly disingenuous to say in one breath we need to study this issue more and then a month later bull-rush legislation through because the legislative session ends a month from now. If the Rhode Island legislative body has an ounce of integrity left, they would delay this vote to hear from the natural products industry. The FDA does not have a single datapoint that connects eating disorders to supplement use, and 80% of Americans take at least one dietary supplement as a safe, effective, and affordable way to maintain good health and augment inadequate diets. The industry is under attack at the state and federal levels. We cannot afford to sit silent if we want to ensure consumer access to natural products remains vibrant.”
As WholeFoods Magazine previously reported, NPA has been acting on multiple fronts to prevent this and other supplement restriction bills from becoming law in several different states. NPA is spearheading grassroots campaigns across the country against these bills. The association is urging natural products industry members to join the thousands of Rhode Island health and wellness advocates to contact their elected officials and warn them of the consequences of S.2613. NPA’s grassroots campaign can be accessed here.