New York seeks to restrict weight management supplements again

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Luke Chan
Getty Images / Luke Chan

Related tags Weight management eating disorders Crn Npa

The Empire State is the latest to introduce legislation aimed at restricting access to weight management supplements, joining Maryland, California, New York, Colorado and elsewhere.

Sponsored by New York State Sen. Shelley Mayer, Senate Bill S5823​ is an effort to establish restrictions on the sale of over-the-counter diet pills and dietary supplements for weight loss or muscle building to people under 18 unless properly prescribed by a health care provider, exempting certain protein powders, protein drinks and foods.

The bill, introduced on March 17, comes after A5610, an identical version of S5823 in the Assembly, was vetoed by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

In a Dec. 23 memo, Hochul said the state health department, which is tasked with determining what products are subject to the bill, lacked “the expertise necessary to analyze ingredients used in countless products, a role that is traditionally played by the FDA.”

“Without sufficient expertise, DOH is not equipped to create a list of restricted products,” Hochul said. “It would also be unfair to expect retailers to determine which products they can and cannot sell over the counter to minors, particularly while facing the threat of civil penalties.”

Kyle Turk, director of government affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA), said he’s unsure why the sponsor would reintroduce the same bill that was vetoed by the governor last year.

“Unless she intends to get an override, which takes a significant amount of political capital to accomplish. But if that's not her intention, maybe she intends to amend it,” said Turk. “The fact that it's identical to last year is certainly peculiar. So I'm going to be on the lookout for amendments.”

Dietary supplements and eating disorders 

Turk said there’s an idea among state legislators that dietary supplements are directly causing eating disorders–something Turk said simply isn’t true. 

“There's no connection between the two. If there were, FDA would have to by law remove that product from the market just like they have with other products that have had an adverse event, most notably ephedra,” he added. 

“Despite the available science, several states are proposing age restrictions on the sale of legitimate, safe supplement products sold by responsible retailers. It is an ineffective solution to a complicated problem. Sweeping access restrictions on these products could penalize everyday purchasers of many popular nutritional supplements that are not being abused by adolescents,” said Steve Mister, President & CEO, Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

The topic continues to be an ongoing educational process for state legislators and their staffs, Turk said. “NPA is more than happy to continue that process with them. We've continued in our position that if they intend to move forward with legislation like this, it needs to exclude dietary supplements. Supplements by nature, if they cause an adverse event like this, they would be pulled from the market by the FDA.”

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