NPA Sounds Alarm: CA Set to Restrict Access to Weight Loss Supplements

NPA stressed that while this bill, which was passed by the California Assembly, would have a serious impact on CA-based retailers, it could have implications throughout the industry, as lawmakers in several states have called for restricting access to these products.

Washington, D.C.—UPDATED 1/27/22: The Natural Products Association (NPA) shared that the California Assembly passed AB-1341: Dietary supplements for weight loss and over-the-counter diet pills by a vote of 44-12. The bill would place age restrictions on nutritional supplements. NPA warns that the bill, which will now go through the committee process in the CA Senate, will “lead to unintended consequences that include driving people under the age of 18 away from responsible retailers and toward shady online sellers.”

NPA is stressing the need for the industry to take fast action. The bill, which would restrict access to dietary supplements, will “place a costly burden on small businesses who have already been hard hit by the COVID-19 health and economic crisis,” warns Kyle Turk, NPA Director of Government Affairs, who served as the chief witness testifying against the bill during a hearing on April 27, 2021.

The bill calls for:

  • Prohibiting retailers from selling dietary supplements for weight loss and OTC diet pills to anyone under 18 without a prescription.
  • Requiring retailers to limit access to those products.
  • Requiring to retailers to conspicuously post a health-related notice regarding those products at each purchase counter.

A violation of the provisions outlined in the bill would make retailers subject to a civil penalty of no more than $1,000 for each violation. 

NPA launched a grassroots campaign to counter the bill, explaining, “If passed, the bill would restrict access to dietary supplements. Unfortunately, we are seeing unhealthy proposals like this across the country. Lawmakers in New Jersey, New York, Missouri, and Massachusetts have also advocated restricting access to these critical health products. While many of us are working toward new years resolutions that may include a healthier lifestyle, lawmakers in Sacramento want to make sure you’re restricted from accessing essential health products like vitamin D and amino acids.”

As WholeFoods reported in April 2021, the bill’s sponsors say the legislation is necessary because of an association between dietary supplements and eating disorders. To that, NPA said, “no such association has been proven by a review of the most authoritative publicly-available data. NPA recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if any such association existed and found no adverse events or reporting associated with dietary supplements and eating disorders.”

In an update on the NPA website shared after the California Assembly passed the legislation, Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., President and CEO of NPA, said, “We share the concern for teenagers with eating disorders, but banning ingredients found in vitamin water, fruit smoothies and other common products in the grocery store is an overreach. More Americans are turning to natural products during the pandemic than ever before because they want to stay healthy. Obesity and poor nutrition are a significant problem in the U.S., and that is why we are focused on expanding access to nutritional supplements through government programs including WIC, SNAP, and through private health savings accounts.”

NPA also has explained that the bill also targets thermogenics, “which are found in foods and beverages we use every day, like caffeine in coffee, catechins found in green tea or beans” and  lipotropics, “which are found in healthy and recommended foods, including lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey and in fish like salmon.”

Dr. Fabricant takes issue with that, explaining, “Nutritional supplements are simply natural ingredients found in foods and restricting access to them is unfair to California consumers, hurts responsible retailers, and drains the state budget through lost sales taxes. Nobody wins.”

The bill would be especially hard on small brick-and-mortar retailers, Turk cautions. “This bill will do more harm to small businesses already hard hit by the pandemic, while doing nothing to protect public health,” Turk said, pointing to the effort it will take to put targeted products behind the counter, and to ensure that IDs are checked and enforce the various aspects of the bill.

NPA added that while the California bill is moving quickly and would have a serious impact on CA-based retailers, if passed, it could have implications throughout the industry, as bills are being considered in several other states.

Related: NPA Sues FDA: Asks Courts to “Block Unlawful Action in NAC Situation”