The crackdown, which was announced at a press conference on November 17, was quickly welcomed by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the Natural Products Association (NPA), and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA).
Loren Israelsen, UNPA’s President, said: “This [announcement] was welcome and overdue, and we were gratified to see the breadth of agencies represented. UNPA and responsible industry have long urged regulators to take decisive action against noncompliant products, as were highlighted today.
“The clear message for industry, Congress, the media and consumers is that there is broad authority held by various agencies to regulate dietary supplements.
“Today was a reaffirmation of our views. We encourage regulators to continue to assure consumers of wide access to safe, beneficial and well-researched dietary supplements. For our part, we will continue to work closely with all regulators on the types of cases they described today to support and encourage a supplement industry that operates within the law and continues to be deserving of widespread consumer trust.”
Israelsen added that his organization has spent a lot of time and energy on education and self-policing, but the industry needs the force of law to remove products and companies that have no interest in selling legitimate dietary supplements.
“However, one unfortunate message was the frequent use of the term ‘dangerous dietary supplements,’ when the law does not recognize the suspect products as dietary supplements but rather unapproved drugs, which FDA has noted on many occasions and which would have been useful to repeat today,” said Israelsen.
“Today’s press conference was a good demonstration of regulators taking action. We say, ‘carry on.’”
AHPA: ‘Appropriately focused’
Michael McGuffin, President of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), said that the enforcement actions announced today by the Justice Department, FDA, US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and FTC are appropriately focused on companies alleged to have acted in contravention to the established laws that are in place to ensure informed consumer access to safe dietary supplements.
“The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) fully supports appropriate enforcement of all the laws that regulate the dietary supplement industry,” he said.
“The Justice Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ben Mizer accurately identified enforcement and education as the most effective steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of criminals looking to defraud dietary supplement consumers by selling unlawful products.”
CRN: ‘If you’re going to engage in illegal activity, you’re going to pay the price’
Steve Mister, president/CEO of the CRN, said he was grateful to the Department of Justice, the FDA, the FTC and other government agencies for taking, “an important step today toward protecting consumers and responsible dietary supplement companies by taking strong enforcement actions against companies that do not follow the laws and put consumers at risk.
“These actions should serve as a strong warning to any company selling products in the dietary supplement space that if you’re going to engage in illegal activity, you’re going to pay the price.”
Mister added that his organization reached out to the DoJ in May to note its concerns that companies engaging in blatant criminal activity were presenting a serious public health risk and hijacking the credibility of the reputable industry.
“We urged the Department of Justice to use all available tools to hold transgressors fully accountable for their actions,” he said. “Today our request – on behalf of the responsible industry – was addressed.
“These actions both help consumers navigate the market to avoid products that may do them harm, and also level the playing field for responsible companies who do things right. We pledge our support to help the government on this important initiative.”
NPA: ‘America’s dietary supplement supply is the safest in the world’
The Natural Products Association issued a general statement, applauding the enforcement action against “rogue elements that are giving the overwhelming majority of legitimate dietary supplement manufacturers and retailers a bad image. The fact is that America’s dietary supplement supply is the safest in the world because of the strong rules and good manufacturing practices that are prevalent among our members.
“Consumers should always consult with their health care practitioner before taking anything, they should beware of claims that sound too good to be true, and they should know that dietary supplements are only one part of a balanced healthy lifestyle that includes proper diet and exercise.
“We have long called on the government to prosecute illegal activity to the full extent of the law, and today’s action demonstrates the government’s vast power to regulate this industry. We welcome the coordination and collaboration of the other agencies involved, and offer to work with them and others to continue educating the public about the benefits of proper dietary supplement usage.
“This is good news both for millions of Americans who use dietary supplements and the hardworking people in our business who are meeting the growing demand for natural products.”
‘The dietary supplement industry resembles the Wild West’
Also weighing in on the announcement was Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the ranking member of the US Senate Special Committee on Aging. Sen McCaskill has taken an increased interest in supplements in recent months and is currently investigating dietary supplements making illegal claims related to memory and mental health.
“I’m glad to see enforcement actions taking place against companies that knowingly endanger or mislead American consumers,” said Sen McCaskill in a statement. “But, the bottom line is that a lack of consistent oversight makes the dietary supplement industry resemble the Wild West – and until the government makes this a real priority we will continue to see shelves stocked with products that could potentially harm American families.”