Under the new initiative, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) will enable the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) to hire an additional attorney to focus exclusively on supplements. The motivation behind the move is to put an end to both comparative advertising claims among makers of dietary supplements and deceptive or misleading claims.
The arrangement is part of an overall move in the industry to assert its credibility and gain more public trust by distancing itself from delinquent products and advertising.
"Industry will be called on to police itself knowing that competitors are watching," CRN president and CEO Steve Mister told attendees at the association's Annual Symposium on Dietary Supplements. "And companies will need to step forward with the appreciation that when consumers are misled, hookwinked, bamboozled or deceived about any supplement, it affects their faith in the reasonable, well-documented and legitimate claims of all supplements."
As part of the project, CRN says it will give multi-year grants to the NAD - an investigative and judicial arm of the advertising industry'sself-regulatory body that reviews national advertising including print,broadcast, infomercials and Internet advertising.
Currently, NAD has a staff of six attorneys who open an average 170 cases each year for all industries. The CRN grants will allow NAD to increase by three-fold the number of dietary supplement-specific case reviews opened each year. CRN will have no role in determining which advertisements NAD chooses to review or whether the claims are determined to be truthful and accurate.
"But for this initiative to work, it will be called on to police itself knowing that competitors are watching," Mister said in his speech in Boston Saturday.
The dietary supplement industry is regulated by the Dietary SupplementHealth and Education Act (DSHEA), which is part of the Food and Cosmetics Act.
Unlike pharmaceuticals, which must go through a series of pre-marketapprovals, finished dietary supplements need no pre-market approval. Only ingredients not marketed in the US before October 1994 must be approved by the FDA before being used in consumer products.
Although the supplement industry upholds DSHEA is a good law, its detractors call for greater regulation. To avoid this, the industry has pushed for self-regulation and protection of its reputation against non-DSHEA compliant products - especially those being sold via the Internet.
"Increased levels of review of dietary supplement advertising serve an important public health interest, as well as levelling the playing field so that honest competitors can compete fairly," said NAD director Andrea Levine.
Critics might argue the industry is picking up where federal regulationfalls short.
"The FTC strongly supports effective self-regulation," said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
"CRN is taking a positive step forward in partnering with NAD to increase the self-regulatory review of dietary supplement advertising. Industry members have a real opportunity to learn from NAD decisions and build consumer confidence."