Disptaches from SupplySide West

Three industry chiefs discuss Capitol Hill elections and the McCain Bill

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplements, John mccain

With mid-term elections on Capitol Hill imminent, the heads of the three biggest trade groups in the US met at SupplySide West in Las Vegas to discuss its implications for the dietary supplements industry.

Steve Mister, the CEO and president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN); John Gay, president and executive director at the Natural Products Association (NPA) and Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) emphasize the importance of ongoing lobbying of the kind that turned the John McCain Bill on its head so quickly after its admission to Congress earlier this year.

“It seems pretty certain the Republicans will take the House of Representatives and so what that means for us is a lot of new committee chairman particularly in the Committee For Energy and Commerce which is where a lot of dietary supplements legislation goes for its first look and a lot of hearings,” ​said Mister.

“So it means we are going to have a new chairman and potentially some new members of the Committee so we have a lot of education to do.”

Shoe leather

Gay agreed educating new members about industry was a job industry had to take very seriously.

‘It’s not rocket science, it’s shoe leather,” ​he said. “We just have to go into each office, tell them about the industry and then we’ll have to keep going back, time and time again.”

Champions appear safe

McGuffin noted that while industry vigilance was required at all times, the industry could breathe a little easier knowing that the most prominent dietary supplement advocates such as Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Tom Harkin (D-IA) were not about to lose their seats.

“I think one thing to add and note is that our key champions are actually all quite secure,” ​he said, noting Hatch and Harkin’s Senate seats were not up for election, and others in the House were safely ahead in polling.

“I think there is a general observation over time that a Republican Congress is more business-friendly and more supplements-friendly than a Democratic Congress.”

Post-DSHEA

Returning to the theme of education, Mister noted new Congressmen and women needed to be educated about the 1994 Dietary Supplements and Health Education Act (DSHEA).

“As we move further from 1994, we have fewer and fewer members and fewer and fewer staffers who were there in ’94 and remember why we passed it and what it stands for.”

“It’s very important that all of us are going to be up there on the Hill come January doing a lot of orientation of new people to help them understand why this industry is regulated the way it is and why it is important to keep it that way.”

McGuffin said the mid-terms also had the potential to see certain industry grudge-bearers exit the scene.

Winning the McCain Bill battle

According to Mister the bill introduced by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain earlier in the year that was quickly withdrawn after intense industry lobbying, had provided an opportunity to inform Congress about key supplement issues, and counter anti-industry material commonly appearing in the “popular press”.

“It was also a reminder for them of how much their constituents care about it,” ​added Gay. “The coalition we are all a part of generated 40,000 emails. This was a big reason the Bill was withdrawn after only two months.”

“We win battles, we never win wars. We are always gonna have to face the next battle. The McCain Bill came up and we killed it but the ideas in the McCain Bill are still alive.”

McGuffin reiterated the industry’s position. “If there is a Bill out there that if it passed could damage us we will act against it.”

Look to NutraIngredients-USA for part two of this videocast where Steve, John and Michael discuss the state of play with GMPs, AERs and why two thirds of the dietary supplements industry choose not to join any trade group at all.

Related topics: Suppliers, The Obama effect

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