NPA seeks input on message to countervail negative media reports on supplements

06-Feb-2014 - By Hank Schultz
NPA seeks input on message to countervail negative media reports on supplements
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Recent negative reports about the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements aren’t just a black eye on the industry.  They represent a groundswell of public sentiment that could lead to the significant alteration of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act and thus call for an immediate response.  At least, that’s the view of the Natural Products Association as expressed by new president Roxanne Green.

Green, of member company PCC Natural Markets, which is based in Seattle, said the the slew of negative reports (many of which take the “unregulated” tack) taken together means the industry is now under pressure not seen since the ephedra situation or perhaps even since the early 1990s in the days leading up to the signing of DSHEA.  The complacency of the prosperous decades that have followed DSHEA’s inception in 1994 could be a dangerous opiate, leading the industry to be too slow to react.

We’re beginning to see the potential for some serious roadblocks in 2014, and it’s important that we act now to control the direction of our future; ensure consumers continue to have access to healthy natural products; and preserve the rights of suppliers and retailers to sell them,” Green said.

Drumbeat of negativity

Among the negative reports that Green cited were a slew of articles (one here from The New York Times) reporting on an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine that questioned the value of multivitamin supplements.  Another guest editorial in The Times written by administrators of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia cited many reasons why the hospital does not allow parents to administer supplements to children in its care, among them that many supplements have been found to be tainted with contaminants and that supplements are “not tested for safety or efficacy.”  And a recent article in USA Today detailed its investigation of cases of supplements found to contain active pharmaceutical ingredients and concludes, “Far from an isolated example, [our] investigation finds that a wide array of dietary supplement companies caught with drug-spiked products are run by people with criminal backgrounds and regulatory run-ins.”

Outlier’ response no longer suffices

Industry advocates often observe that these cases are outliers, and are the stories of criminals who are evading the existing laws that govern the sector and do not represent the overwhelming majority of the industry that is acting responsibly.  But Green said that the industry’s ever-high profile means that its garnering additional scrutiny, and that standard response may no longer placate the critics.

“The rapid growth of the natural products industry is attracting the attention of influential forces that are putting pressure on federal regulators to change the definition of natural in a way that would not serve the best interests of natural products industry stakeholders or consumers. What’s more, at the end of last year, a surge of negative reports in the mainstream media regarding nutritional supplements has the potential to increase pressure on politicians to reopen the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), and create costly new regulations that reduce access to legitimate natural products,” Green said.

Call to action

NPA is calling on input from industry—from member companies and nonmembers alike—to craft a powerful, positive message.  The organization is seeking responses to the following surveys, which close on Feb. 14.

NPA survey for member retailers can be found here:

NPA survey for suppliers can be found here:

NPA survey for non-member retailers can be found here:

NPA survey for non-member suppliers can be found here:

Related topics: GMPs, QA & QC, Product claims, Regulation, Vitamins & premixes, Botanicals & Herbals