Q&A with NPA’s New CEO, Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D.

Washington, D.C.—The Natural Products Association (NPA) recently installed Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., as its new executive director and CEO. He returns to NPA after serving as the director of the Division of Dietary Supplement Programs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for three years. Before that, he was vice president of global government and scientific affairs for NPA. Many are wondering what the former federal regulator will bring to NPA, and what perspectives will travel with him from FDA to NPA (also see coverage of concerns raised by Jarrow Formula’s president).

WholeFoods sat down with Dr. Fabricant in mid-May to talk about his new role at NPA.

  Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D.

WholeFoods: You served at NPA for several years and then moved to FDA for the past three. What drew you back to NPA?

Fabricant: I enjoyed my time at the agency tremendously. I did a lot to move the needle during my time at the government, and there’s a lot I can do externally to move the needle…I think that there’s a lot of change that can be driven that can really benefit everyone. I’m looking forward to working on those things.

And, I love this organization. Most organizations don’t live 78 years. The fact that we’ve made it that far and are staring 80 in the face is huge. It says a lot about the organization and what it means to the industry and how [natural products] affect consumers’ lives.

WholeFoods: What lessons did you learn at FDA that might influence your work as the new executive director/CEO at NPA?

Fabricant: We have an opportunity here. We understand the regulators better than anyone else in this space. Also, part of my role when I was at the agency was leading the field training [of inspectors] and reformatting the field training and really changing it for the better. I used to talk at tradeshows about how the agency was looking at things. That was in a 45-minute speaking session. At FDA, we would do our training for a week. There are a lot of firms that have questions and need some technical help and may not be getting it to the degree that may satisfy regulators.

NPA has some great existing programs that provide education, and we can really ratchet that up a bit more by having FDA-style training explaining to people how regulators look at issues. There’s value in that.

WholeFoods: What are your top priorities for NPA in the next year or so?

Fabricant: We certainly expanded our portfolio in the past few years with personal care. On the food side, we’re also expanding. More and more foods are coming to market making functional food claims. There’s a whole area there that has gone untapped without a lot of discussion…I think there’s a lot NPA can offer.

We recently brought Devon Powell on board as senior vice president of member services and chief operating officer (COO). He knows the industry very well, and has been responsible for a lot of the revitalization of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), in my opinion. I think he can do that here for the industry on a bigger platform with a bigger forum.

WholeFoods: What is the most important thing you believe industry members get out of membership in NPA?

Fabricant: First and foremost is the advocacy component…We’re going to continue to strive to get favorable impacts, but we need to start to play the game differently. One of our great champions, Senator Tom Harkin, is leaving in two years. Another great champion, Senator Hatch, may leave in four years. What other lawmakers know us? Who have we really told our story to? How well do they know the amount of business generated from this industry and the value it adds to the American people? We have a lot to do there and I’m excited by that.

Two, the education is becoming more and more important. As time goes by, as you get to the ends of administrations, it’s the regulatory bodies that really make the push. And we know how they deal with things to a greater extent than anyone else out there in the field. That’s certainly a very unique value proposition.

One of the big things we pride ourselves on is how we bring the business-to-business relationships to bear. How do we bring people together? We’re looking to do more of that and we’re going to use several different platforms. Another thing we do particularly well is communicate with our members and respond to some of the PR issues.

We used to have a Coalition to Preserve DSHEA here…now is the time more than ever to have a similar proposition on the table. I think we’re going to look to re-establish that as well.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, June 2014 (online 5/13/14)