Israelsen, the president of the United Natural Products Alliance, sat down this reporter to talk about what receiving the award from NutraIngredients-USA means for him personally. He also spoke on where the industry has come from and where he thinks it’s going.
“I guess it’s a sign that after 40 years of work and service in the industry that whatever I’m doing is still useful and meaningful. That means a great deal to me personally,” Israelsen said.
“The word ‘champion’ itself I’d like to believe really does mean wanting to fight for and successfully defending the interests of our industry and of our consumers,” he added.
Tapping into a groundswell
Israelsen was a member of former Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) staff during the run-up to the advent of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994. That piece of legislation created the modern dietary supplement industry, and without it, the industry would be a much different place. Israelsen said FDA, in the few years prior to the signing of the bill by Pres. Bill Clinton, had a restrictive view of the marketplace that made places for foods, drugs and food additives, with very little room for anything else. There might still be multivitamins and a few other things on the market if that view had carried the day, Israelsen said. But very little else.
“On the course we were on pre-DSHEA there would be no dietary supplement industry as we know it today,” Israelsen said.
During the negotiations around the legislation, dietary supplement industry stakeholders managed to elicit a public letter writing, phone call and fax campaign that outstripped anything beyond reaction to the Vietnam War. While the size of the modern industry ($55 billion and counting) was perhaps beyond imagining, Israelsen said they were aware they were giving voice to a deeply rooted consumer desire.
“There were glimpses along the way during DSHEA that we had tapped into a really high powered voltage line,” Israelsen said. “We knew it was there but we didn’t know how big it was until DSHEA. So that was a glimpse of the future.”
Future of ‘DSHEA 2.0’
The future now includes possibly revising DHSEA, to craft a so-called ‘DHSEA 2.0’ that might serve the modern marketplace better. Israelsen said FDA has been more enthusiastic about revamping this law than has been the industry, but that stakeholders have slowly come around to the notion that the law will be amended one way or another in the coming year. Whether to institute a mandatory product listing and what the New Dietary Ingredient guidelines will look like will be part of those discussion, Israelsen said.