Another weight loss sales restriction bill falls victim to gubernatorial veto

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Dennis Tangey Jr.
©Getty Images - Dennis Tangey Jr.

Related tags Regulation weight loss products muscle building eating disorders

The dietary supplement industry dodged another regulatory bullet when New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have restricted the sales of some weight management and muscle building products in the state.

Gov. Hochul vetoed the bill shortly before Christmas.  She had not vetoed a bill all year until she had won reelection.  Since early November, however, she has vetoed more than 50 bills. According to the New York Post​, Gov. Hochul has been intent on vetoing bills that would cost the state money in order to save funds for her priorities, which include constructing more affordable housing, reforming juvenile incarceration and helping out group homes for the developmentally disabled that took hits during the pandemic.

Underlying assertion:  Supplement use worsens eating disorders

Among the vetoed bills was a measure titled New York State Assembly Bill A431-C.  The bill would have restricted the sale of muscle building and weight loss supplements to minors, requiring that brick and mortar retailers put such products behind the counter and require buyers to supply ID to prove their age.

The motivation for this and other similar bills, such as one vetoed in the fall by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, is the purported link between the use of such products and the worsening of eating disorders.

Opponents of the California and New York bills, and another similar one in New Jersey that is still pending, say that there is no evidence that the use of supplements is in any way linked to the worsening of eating disorders.  People suffering from eating disorders might in fact be using dietary supplements, but there is nothing to indicate causality there, advocates say.

It’s not clear at the moment exactly why Gov. Hochul vetoed the bill, but Dan Fabricant, PhD, head of the Natural Products Association, said he was under the impression that her reasons were similar to those voiced by Gov. Newsom when he handed down the veto in his state.

“I think it was similar to the concerns that Gov. Newsom had, which was, the state was not equipped to do this,”​ Fabricant told NutraIngredients-USA​.

Among the potential issues was that matter of definitions.  The bill would have required the state health department, on a case by case basis,  to start determining which products that were on the market should be subject to the restrictions.

“And all this would be done without any real science to start pulling things off the shelf,” ​Fabricant said.

CRN:  Bill would have burdened industry without helping eating disorder sufferers

Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said while CRN is empathetic to those suffering from eating disorders, New York and other states should focus on proven ways to help them, and not disappear down regulatory rabbit holes.

“We are pleased Governor Hochul recognized that the proposal passed by the legislative chambers, while well intentioned, likely would not have much of an impact on the public health problem of increased eating disorders and body dysmorphia among young adults. It would impose an unfair burden on retailers that would be difficult for them to meet, but have little impact on products sold online, products that more often attract young people with aggressive claims,”​ he said.

“We consulted with Governor Hochul's staff to provide scientific information on the safety and existing federal regulation of the affected products, along with information regarding the significant economic contributions that dietary supplement manufacturing and ingredient supply provides to New York. We appreciate that the Governor listened to these objections and vetoed the bill,”​ Mister added.

NPA:  No adverse events data exists to back claims of harm

Fabricant said one of the arguments NPA brought forward both in California and New York centered on the existing adverse event reporting system.  If there was truly a problem with the purported connection between supplements and eating disorders, at least some signal of that would be present in the system, he said.

“That system works.  Those are real data points that clinicians use.  This was not within the state’s purview, and FDA does a very good job of evaluating products on the market and removing those that have been shown to cause problems,”​ he said.

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