AHPA’s McGuffin on 40 years of industry impact and influence

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ahpa, American herbal products association, Herbal products, Michael mcguffin

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the American Herbal Products Association. We sat down with AHPA President, Michael McGuffin, to look back on the association’s impact and influence over 40 years and look ahead to the industry’s future.

Over four decades, the organization has grown to include over 400 member companies across five continents, 17 committees representing key areas of industry interest, and valuable resources that include second editions of AHPA’s Botanical Safety Handbook​ and Herbs of Commerce​.

To mark its 40th​ anniversary, AHPA will recognize landmark achievements and key milestones, such as its first trade requirement adopted in 1988 to prohibit trade in wild-harvested lady’s slippers. In 2006, AHPA led industry support for the establishment of a serious adverse event reporting law. In 2021, AHPA led a coordinated effort in the herbal community to prevent consumer confusion over the word “herbalist” by opposing use of the term as a trademark.

AHPA will also recognize longtime members with celebrations online and in-person at events throughout the year.

Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA, McGuffin said that AHPA’s membership has always reflected the evolving herbal industry.

“The herbal industry was founded by hippies and Mormons. That’s just true,” ​he said. “The hippies and Mormons also got together and recognized the common interest in protecting access to herbs, and so were there at the initial meetings when AHPA was founded in 1982.

“But we didn’t stand still,” ​continued McGuffin. “We chartered our Chinese Herbal Products Committee in 2001, we founded our Ayurvedic Products Committee in 2005, we started the AHPA Cannabis Committee in 2010, and some thought that was too early, but it turns out it was just on time. Also, our Sports Nutrition Committee was founded in 2010.

“This continuing evolution occurs organically. We just pay attention to what our members tell us are their interests and needs.”

Cannabis

AHPA’s cannabis committee was considered a controversial development when it was established in 2010, added McGuffin

“Most decisions made by the AHPA Board are made unanimously by general consent,” ​he said. “The decision to form the cannabis committee was not.

“There was a consideration of, would it undermine AHPA’s authority and reputation? Would it, especially in meetings with our most conservative of Congressional allies, be harmful?”

To make sure that didn’t happen, McGuffin requested a meeting with Orrin Hatch’s staff – a conservative senator and champion of herbal products and dietary supplements – and told them about the committee.

“Their response was, ‘You’ve gotta do what your members need you to do’,” ​said McGuffin. “‘Just don’t get our boss mentioned in ​High Times magazine!’”

He also explained why he would support a separate class of herbal medicines, like we see in other companies, that would exist in addition​ to herbal supplements. “DSHEA needs to stay. This access we have is really important. It’s the broadest in the world and we should acknowledge that. We have the most liberal system in the world, and we should make it more liberal [with the establishment of an herbal medicine category].”

However, such a development is very unlikely, he said. “There would just be great resistance: The pharmaceutical industry would likely not be supportive. The Food and Dug Administration would likely not be supportive.”

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