Unsettled political outlook boosts interest in lobby day, NPA says

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / rarrarorro
© Getty Images / rarrarorro
An unsettled national political environment is one rife with opportunity. That’s one reason the Natural Products Association has cited for the strong turnout anticipated for its lobby day, which is set for mid-April.

NPA's Natural Products Day​ begins on Tuesday, April 17 with an evening reception at the Hamilton Hotel in Washington DC and continues with a breakfast briefing the next day at the Capitol Hill Club.

The event continues with meetings between individual state delegations and their respective members of Congress throughout the day. The event concludes with an evening reception with members of Congress and staff members at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Dan Fabricant, PhD, president and executive director of NPA, said that more than 140 attendees have already signed on for the event. The attendees represent a broad swath of both the country and the industry, he said. NPA counts among its members dietary supplement manufacturers, health food retailers and food manufacturers.

“So far we have registrants from 99 companies and 31 different states,​ he said. “This industry has a national presence, and that’s what’s reflected in our membership.

Regulatory redundancy

In the scene-setting breakfast briefing, Fabricant said three themes will predominate. They are the state of the economy, the outlook on health care reform, and the regulatory picture.

Fabricant said the executive order signed by President Trump on regulation has engendered a lot of interest on the part of his organization’s membership. Executive Order No. 13771 mandates that two outdated or unnecessary regulations must be expunged for each new one promulgated by a regulatory agency. 

“We’ve sent our comments​ in to FDA about what regulations we think are not helpful,​ Fabricant told NutraIngredients-USA. “And this is an opportunity for small business to go to the member of Congress from their district to weigh on regulation.

“For example, I can put chlorophyll inside of a capsule but I can’t use chlorophyll to color the capsule. It seems as if the supplement folk and the food additive folk aren’t talking to one another. There are a lot of arcane regulations like that in the book,​ he said.

Health care expenditures

Daniel Fabricant headshot
Dr Daniel Fabricant, NPA

Another opportunity is available on health care reform, Fabricant said. NPA and others have advocated for health care dollars​ such as those available through the WIC and SNAP programs be made available for the purchase of dietary supplements. Similarly, NPA has advocated for the ability of consumers to use pretax HSA/FSA dollars for the purchase of these health-promoting products.

The dietary supplement industry has enjoyed remarkably stable cross-aisle support in Congress. Even so, it’s unlikely any of those initiatives will come to final legislative fruition this session given the utter dearth of cooperation on Capitol Hill, Fabricant said.  But he said it is nevertheless important for industry representatives to keep those ideas alive in the minds of lawmakers and their staffs.

“We have an opportunity to go to members of Congress to say that we can grow the economy back home, in your district. We need to make it clear to them what role this industry can play in the health and wellness of the country,​ Fabricant said.

“Legislatively it’s not clear what if anything is going to move. But on the executive side, the Secretary of the Treasury has a lot of latitude to look at whether there are parts of the tax code in which reimbursement for health and wellness outlays can by recognized,​ he said.

Labeling questions

Among the specific regulatory changes Fabricant said he hopes members advocate for this year has to do with the changes on the labeling of products. As matters stand, labels for foods and supplements will be remade once starting this year to comply with changes such as where on the label calories are called out and to account for added sugars.

Then, a couple of years down the road, they’ll have to be remade again to comply with the bioengineered food labeling law. There is no overriding public health concern which mandates that the labels must be quickly remade, Fabricant said.

“Moving the calories from the left side of the label to the right side—there is not a stitch of data to show that that is going to make any difference in national obesity rates. There is no clear public health concern. Rather than remake food and supplements labels to account for changes such as where to put the calories and what font sizes to use, and then do them again to account for the GMO law, why not unify those so there is one date to make changes? Why do this in a haphazard manner that won’t benefit the consumer?​ he said.

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