NPA urges NY governor to veto supplement sales ban, while similar NJ bill faces vote today

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

A bill banning sales of some supplements to minors is on the desk of NY Gov. Kathy Hochul.  ©Getty Images - Dennis Tangey Jr.
A bill banning sales of some supplements to minors is on the desk of NY Gov. Kathy Hochul. ©Getty Images - Dennis Tangey Jr.

Related tags regulations eating disorders Supplements weight management products Sports nutrition Sports nutrition products

Bills aimed at restricting the sale of weight management and muscle building supplements to minors have advanced in both New York and New Jersey. The Natural Products Association claims they’re based on unsupported assertions from a group at Harvard University.

The two bills have similar aims: to prevent unrestricted access to these products by minors as a way to prevent the escalation of eating disorders.  In both cases, however, the bills address only brick and mortar sales and have nothing to say about online purchases.

Bills based on assertions made by Harvard group

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president and CEO of NPA, said the claim that these kind of supplements can give rise to eating disorders or make them worse originated with the STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders) group at Harvard University.

Fabricant maintains there is no evidence for the claim.  He said the best place to look to see if the products are involved with these issues is in the adverse events database maintained by the US Food and Drug Administration.  While adverse events in and of themselves don’t establish causality, Fabricant said they are highly useful as a warning signal.

“We have been doing FOIA requests to FDA on eating disorder adverse event reports.  We don’t have a single data point from FDA that shows that connection,” ​he said.

Harvard group has declined to engage on subject

Fabricant said NPA has spent the better part of a year trying to engage  with STRIPED director S. Bryn Austin, ScD.  Fabricant said the goal was to talk through what specific products and/or ingredients Austin believes have these effects and what studies she uses to support those claims, but the discussion has not taken place.  Prof. Austin has not yet responded to a request for comment on the matter.

In a 2015 paper, Prof. Austin and her coauthors had this to say: 

“When Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, it stripped the Food and Drug Administration of its premarket authority, rendering regulatory controls too weak to adequately protect consumers. State government intervention is thus warranted.”

The STRIPED home page says weight loss and muscle-building supplements “rarely work as advertised; although they are marketed as being herbal in origin, they often contain unlisted chemical ingredients. Stimulants, anti-depressants, and the active ingredient in failed weight-loss drug Meridia (sibutramine) have all been found in these products, andyoung people have died from their use.” 

NPA:  Bills are onerous for small retailers

Kyle Turk, NPA’s vice president of regulatory affairs, delivered testimony dated today on the New Jersey bill that stated: “The proposal under consideration today would place onerous restrictions, most notably on small businesses such as your local pharmacy, convenience, or health food store, by prohibiting the sale of popular products. Restricting access to them is unfair to those who value health and wellness and hurts responsible retailers. Nobody wins.”

NPA has urged that New York Gov. Kathy Hochul veto the bill in her state. The New Jersey bill, which is not advanced as far, was scheduled for a vote today.

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