The bill, introduced by State Senator Kay Khan, D-Newton, seeks to prevent minors from purchasing “over-the-counter diet pills or dietary supplements for weight loss or muscle building.” The bill defines these as products that, “May include, but are not limited to, thermogens, which are substances that produce heat in the body and promote more calorie burning, lipotropics, which are compounds that help break down fat during body metabolism, hormones, including hormone modulators and hormone mimetics, appetite suppressants, or ingredients deemed adulterated under 21 U.S.C.A § 342.”
Ingrid Lebert, senior director of government affairs for CRN, testified before a hearing of the Joint Committee on Public Health last week. Also testifying, at the behest of CRN, was Rick Kreider, PhD, Director of the Exercise & Sport Nutrition Lab at Texas A&M University. Mike Greene, senior vice president of government relations for CRN, said Khan, the bill’s sponsor, is a former psychiatric nurse who had seen the damage that eating disorders can cause. But he said the goal of the testimony was to properly assess blame where it’s due, and in the opinion of CRN it does not belong with legal dietary supplements. Greene said this is not the first go round with this bill, so CRN has some insight into Khan’s motivations for putting it forward.
“When we met with her two years ago it was quite obvious that she had seen a lot of individuals with eating disorders. We don’t dispute that there is a problem in society with eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorders. But we think she’s making the wrong connection between these disorders and dietary supplements,” Greene told NutraIngredients-USA at the recent annual meeting of CRN members in Tucson, AZ.
Lebert, in her testimony, emphasized that dietary supplements are a legal and regulated category of consumer products.
Regulated category of products
“While we recognize the potential concern about misuse and abuse of such products, CRN is alarmed with this legislation because the bill attempts to restrict safe, legal and regulated products—ultimately limiting access to responsible consumers who may find benefit in these products,” she said.
She laid out for the committee members the regulatory structure for dietary supplements, including the Dietary Supplements health and Education Act (DSHEA). Lebret also informed committee members about the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act (DASCA) that seeks to give the Food and Drug Administration the tools to get potentially dangerous products masquerading as dietary supplements off the market. Lebret also laid out the adverse event reporting system that allows FDA to gather real time information on products for which there may a safety concern.
Kreider, in his testimony, concurred with Lebret’s outline of the sector’s regulatory structure and went on to say that dietary supplements as a category of products, or considered as a behavior, are extremely safe overall, including for minors.
False link with eating disorders
Both Lebert and Kreider criticized the bill for being over broad. The bill could essentially make legal and effective products, such as protein powders or fiber supplements, unavailable to Massachusetts consumers. In addition, the two disagreed that there is a safety concern with legally manufactured and marketed supplements in these categories. Evidence of safety concerns should be based on high quality data from properly conducted studies, not from, “Unsubstantiated anecdotal reports, misinformation published on the Internet or through the media, poorly designed survey studies, or politics,” Kreider said.
“We are not aware of any scientific evidence to prove causation or effect between eating disorders and the responsible use of dietary supplements,” Lebert testified.
“Our job is to protect the legitimate dietary supplement industry,” Greene said. “We can’t support a bill calling for these kinds of restrictions without any facts from individuals suffering from eating disorders.”