Guest article

The Supplement OWL takes self-regulation under its wing

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I don’t speak French, but anyone who took a high school civics class is familiar with the term laissez-faire. Literally meaning “to leave alone,” it’s not always the best course of action—especially for our industry.

With a new administration in place, I’ve heard some companies suggest that we can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to regulation—that the current rules will somehow be relaxed with a Republican-run Congress and a mandate from our new President to slash bureaucracy in government. But that doesn’t mean now is the time for us to act like teenagers with parents that are out of town for the weekend.

In fact, now, more than ever, it is our duty to demonstrate that we’re responsible and transparent. The dietary supplement industry needs to continue to be fully-committed to bringing to market safe, high-quality products that consumers can trust and depend upon. At the same time, we need to support efforts by regulators to protect our consumers.

As an industry, now is the time when we can best complement government regulation with meaningful self-regulation. It is imperative that as a responsible, maturing industry, we continue to take a look at ourselves from within and assess the ways we can improve.

One of ways we can do this is with the Supplement OWL (Online Wellness Library)—the dietary supplement product registry. A self-regulatory initiative, the Supplement OWL was born out of an industry-wide desire to help regulators, retailers, and other industry stakeholders get a more complete picture of the scope and breadth of the supplement industry.

With the Supplement OWL poised to publicly take flight in April, making the product registry available to anyone with an internet connection, it is imperative that all responsible companies participate.

Now is not the time to engage in a laissez-faire approach. Now is the time for all of us to demonstrate how seriously we take our obligations to the public through meaningful, proactive, self-regulatory measures. The balance of Congressional power will shift at some point, and then shift back again—that’s the nature of politics. It’s up to us and to companies that want to lead the industry to be prepared to exist in whatever political situation comes our way. The best way to be prepared is to control as much of our business destiny as possible by focusing on doing what is right for our consumer.

We urge companies to participate in the Supplement OWL by uploading their finished product labels. We are confident that this product registry will become an important tool for regulators to help differentiate responsible companies from those that prefer to hide in the shadows. We are also confident that, as the Supplement OWL gains traction, retailers, both large and small, will expect their manufacturers to be part of this product registry. Absence will suggest your company is not confident enough to allow FDA (and FTC) to see you what you’re selling. Companies willing to be transparent with their labels are the companies that have nothing to hide and everything to gain by putting their labels in one place to be available to regulators. It’s a badge of accountability that we expect companies will wear proudly.

There are several options available for getting your product labels in to the Supplement OWL: 1) electronic transfer of labels from an existing IT system; 2) conversion of labels already in the ODS Dietary Supplement Label Database; 3) manual data entry; or 4) using a third-party upload service. UL, the company managing the product registry, is prepared to talk your company through the process and help you determine which option is your best option. To learn more, there’s a newly updated microsite to help get you started: www.SupplementOWL.org.

Let’s kick that laissez-faire attitude to the curb and take charge of our industry’s destiny.

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