The Act (HR1364), which was introduced to Congress by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Jared Polis on April 5, says producers of healthy foods and supplements should be allowed to cite ‘legitimate scientific studies’ on the health benefits of their products on product labels and websites.
Commenting on the Act, which proposes an amendment to Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to enable supplement makers to cite scientific studies on their labels and websites, NPA chief executive John Gay said: “While we are sympathetic to the goal of more accurate information being allowed to be disseminated, it could end up opening up DSHEA (the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act) to amendments and once you start this process you don’t know what is going to come out of it.
“There are a lot of people that still believe that this industry needs more regulation and we have to be vigilant. The regulation is sufficient, it just needs to be enforced. We have supported additional resources to the policing of DSHEA and we’re very happy that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now phased in GMP (good manufacturing practice) regulations for all manufacturers.”
However, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), which does "not currently have a position on the Free Speech/Science bill", said it did not expect the industry's Congressional critics to introduce legislation imposing further restrictions on the trade in the 112th Congress given that its focus was so heavily on the economy and spending issues.
"While we will always remain vigilant against legislation that would reduce consumer access to supplements", said AHPA president Michael McGuffin, "We do not believe that any of our Congressional critics are planning to introduce any such legislation, at least in the near future."
As to whether members of Congress were well-informed about the issues affecting the sector, "the very public partnership between FDA and the supplement trade associations to confront the issue of drug-spiked products masquerading as supplements went a long way toward educating many Congressional offices that the majority of the dietary supplements industry is engaged in responsible commerce", he added.
Battle to tackle misconception that industry is unregulated still not won
However, there were still some politicians laboring under the misconception that the natural products industry was unregulated, claimed the NPA's Gay, who was speaking to NutraIngredients-USA.com after NPA’s annual Natural Products Day in Washington, in which industry representatives met with members of Congress and their staff to discuss issues affecting the natural products sector.
The day began with an issue briefing and advocacy training session, while retailers, manufacturers and suppliers from the natural products sector then spent the afternoon meeting lawmakers and key staff members from their districts and states.
“The day went very well,” said Gay. “Our primary aim was to educate and engage with the 100+ new members of Congress that joined in November that may not have any experience of the industry or how it is regulated.
“There is a wide variety of experience and interest, but even those with a personal interest in supplements do not necessarily know how the industry is regulated and there are still many people that believe that it is un- or certainly under-regulated, which is just not the case.”
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) said it did not have a position on the free speech Bill and was primarily focused on the full implementation of DSHEA. Mike Greene, vice president, government relations, said: "We're focused on enforcement issues in relation to DSHEA, in particular around drug-spiked products, plus the release of guidance on new dietary ingredients notifications, which we understand is coming out in early July."
Click here to read more editorial coverage about the Free Speech About Science Act 2011.
Click here to see the text of the Act.