Consumer is king, says CRN

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Crn, Dietary supplement

Jess Halliday speaks to Steve Mister, the new president and
CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), about the trade
association's three main areas of focus: safety, membership and,
underlying everything, a renewed focus on the consumer.

At a time when health and wellness are at the forefront of consumers' collective consciousness, gaining trust and providing accurate information are top priorities for supplement makers.

But the CRN's role is not to tell members how to communicate with their consumers - they already have their own sophisticated marketing strategies in place. Rather, Mister is concentrating on industry issues aimed at increasing consumer access to and confidence in dietary supplements.

"Consumers want to be well and feel that they are in charge of their healthcare,"​ he said. "Dietary supplements are a way to make this happen."

A case in point is the CRN's support for Congressman Canon's proposal earlier this month that the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 be amended so that certain meal replacement and dietary supplement products that qualify for FDA-approved health claims can be considered expenses for medical care (HR 1545).

This would mean that supplements could be included in health savings accounts, which were introduced in 2003 to help individuals save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.

Mister took over at the helm of CRN two weeks ago from long-time president and industry stalwart Annette Dickinson, who has retired. HR 1545 is just one of the issues on which he will be leading the council's monitoring and canvassing efforts.

"We are beefing up our government affairs staff to increase the level of monitoring we are doing at government level,"​ he said.

However he was clear to point out that although he comes from a regulatory rather than a scientific background like Dickinson, his appointment does not represent a sea change at CRN.

"Science gives us credibility with congress and the FDA."

To this end Dr Andrew Shao was recently appointed as the council's new as vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs. He will be involved in reviewing and studying specific ingredients - a key role in the organization's shifting focus on regarding analytical methods.

"We want to ensure that products have the same potency and quality all the time,"​ said Mister. "Consumers should know exactly what they are getting every time they take pill from a bottle."

In terms of government monitoring, on a state level the CRN is currently keeping a close eye on legislation on performance enhancing substances. The line between drugs and supplements can get blurred in this area, as legislators are inclined to lump in dietary supplements that have performance enhancing effects with substances such as steroids.

At a federal level, it is supporting moves to make serious adverse effects reporting compulsory.

Legislation requiring companies to keep information on reported serious adverse effects from using their product and to make it available to the FDA was proposed last year, but the bill of which it was part ran out of time.

Mister said that discussions are underway to include it in another piece of legislation and the CRN has signaled its support to the sponsors.

Safety is an issue in which CRN members are taking a very active, direct interest. According to Mister about a dozen attended a recent meeting held to discuss the operation of the new Center for Dietary Supplement Safety at the University of Minnesota's College of Pharmacy, an initiative with which Dickinson is involved on a consultancy basis.

Founded in 1973, the Washington-based trade association has 73 members.

Mister said that that growing the CRN's membership base is one of his three main aims. He is identifying and approaching companies that are not currently members of a trade association but whose values are a good fit with those of the CRN.

Related topics: Regulation

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