Addressing attendees at the CRN's Annual Symposium for the Dietary Supplement and Functional Food Industry in Arizona last week, Jim Hyde, chairman of the CRN Board and VP&GM of Balchem Human Nutrition and Pharma, thanked companies who are already getting their labels uploaded into the Supplement OWL, the industry-wide, self-regulatory product label registry being spearheaded by CRN.
“By being early adopters and trailblazers, you are showing your competitors and retailers alike that you will be accountable and transparent with our regulators like FDA, and ultimately with consumers,” said Hyde.
“It’s critical that our CRN members demonstrate a unified commitment to the effort. Even contract manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and the associate members like law firms and testing services can raise awareness of the Supplement OWL with their clients and customers, and urge them to participate.”
The registry is intended to boost transparency in the industry by providing a more complete picture of the marketplace. It allows users to access the registry through the internet and to search product entries by brand name, ingredient, health category and a host of other options. The registry provides ingredient listings, serving sizes, a copy of the Supplement Facts box, and other information about the supplements.
A second tier includes additional information that may be voluntarily submitted by each dietary supplement manufacturer. Manufacturers have the option to determine who will have access permission to view the information submitted in Tier 2. This section will include a nominal charge.
“Tier 2 is already functional, but I think we have some work ahead of us to get companies to appreciate the value of this feature,” Steve Mister, CRN’s President & CEO, told attendees in Arizona. “Tier 1 of the Supplement OWL is focused on the information that’s on the label, but Tier 2 goes beyond that. It allows brand owners to upload all the supporting documentation that stands behind their products: third party certifications, GMP audits, inspection reports, and confirmation of the integrity of their ingredients. All these documents will allow retailers to get a complete understanding of the products on their shelves. It will demonstrate a new level of accountability for dietary supplements.
“And I should mention that I have been meeting with many of the largest retailers of our products and there is tremendous interest from their side in Tier 2, so we need to show them just how beneficial it can be.
Hyde and Mister also discussed ongoing work to allow recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their benefits to purchase a multivitamin.
“We know that children and adults both, who are not getting adequate amounts of the essential nutrients, don’t perform as well and are more at risk to be unhealthy,” said Hyde. “Prenatal multivitamins are particularly important to fetal development. So expanding SNAP coverage to permit the purchase of a multivitamin just makes good sense.”
The organization is also turning its attention to medical foods. The Board requested the staff to examine the medical food space and determine if CRN should expand its representation to include this growing sector of the consumer healthcare space, said Hyde.
“Medical food is a complicated and amorphous category of products,” noted Mister. “If you ask the six largest companies in this market right now to define medical food, you would probably get at least six different answers—maybe more.
“These products offer the potential to help many consumers manage disease with nutritional support, but there are many views on how they fit into the regulatory framework, whether they should require closer doctor supervision, and whether insurance companies should pay for these nutrition therapies. One of my concerns at this point is whether there is sufficient common ground among the industry participants to come together in pursuit of some common policy goals.”
Education initiatives and NDIs
Other issues addressed during the Chairman/President’s State of the Industry remarks were the launch of a new consumer education initiative and NDIs. The education initiative will seek to alert consumers to the risks of using tainted products that are marketed for drug-like effects and products containing anabolic steroids and prescription drugs. It was supposed to launch this year but was delayed for budgetary reasons, noted Hyde.
“We need to push the FDA forward on the NDI issues—resolve our differences and provide some predictability in this area,” he added. “The industry has been in limbo for far too long with respect to what’s new and what’s not, and the appropriate levels of science to demonstrate safety.”