Trades weigh in on call to clean up dietary supplement industry

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© TrongNguyen / Getty Images
© TrongNguyen / Getty Images

Related tags Trade Associations Dietary supplement Regulation DSHEA DSHEA 2.0 cGMP Food and drug administration

In a recent letter to Congress, supplement company Ritual urged lawmakers to clean up a dietary supplement industry that has grown twenty-fold since the enactment of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act nearly 30 years ago.

The Los Angeles-based company presents a Traceable Wellness Map modeled on its own best practices, calling for “meaningful steps to improve the safety and efficacy of supplements on the market today” through health-protective limits for heavy metals, the definition of terms like ‘clinically studied’, strengthening accountability for players introducing dietary supplements to the market, addressing mislabeling issues and requiring ingredient traceability.

“Ritual hopes this letter is a conversation starter for what policy reforms could help empower FDA to address our rapidly growing category and also deliver on consumer desires and expectations,” Ritual’s Chief Impact Officer Lindsay Dahl said last week​.

NutraIngredients-USA reached out to the dietary supplement trade associations, which responded by sharing existing efforts and avenues towards the modernization and health of the industry.

‘Collective political muscle’

Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), commended Ritual for stepping up and showing an interest in some of the industry’s key issues including dietary supplement listings and use of the term ‘clinically studied’.

“Just like the companies that do their own testing of products, companies who call out their competitors for making illegal claims around diseases, any time a company is willing to do that and be politically active, we applaud those efforts,” he said.

“What we would say though is that you will get a lot further when you work in coalition with the rest of the industry, and that is in fact what trade associations do, we bring competitors and colleagues together in order to develop an industry response and have the collective political muscle that comes from having a lot of companies behind an effort.”

CRN is a member of the Dietary Supplement Trade Associations (DSTA), which includes the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA). As a collective, with sometimes differing views, the associations have met monthly since 2011​ to address a wide range of ongoing industry challenges, initiatives and opportunities to foster strong relationships with FDA and advocate for meaningful legislation.

“We’ve already had in fact some conversations with Ritual about how they can join their voice with ours,” Mister added.

‘A different animal’

Dan Fabricant, Ph.D., president and CEO at the Natural Products Association (NPA), responded by pointing out avenues for achieving change in regulated industries.

“Everyone has a digital platform these days that may be great for marketing; still in DC, effecting real change is a different animal, especially in FDA regulated industries,” Dr. Fabricant said. “The fire first and aim second approach is rife with unintended consequences, especially given the current political environment.”

He said that anyone who is sincere about being a leader and acting as a steward for any industry can get involved in a meaningful way by contributing to political action committees, showing up in DC for fly-ins or the like and belonging to a trade association. 

“Those are table stakes for other industries we’re benchmarked against, no one gets a pass on that,” he added. “What people should be looking at is with all the current attacks on the industry is our industry response in terms of advocacy and resources towards it in line with other industries that have faced similar threats?”

‘New challenges and responsibilities’ 

Duffy MacKay, senior vice president of dietary supplements at the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), welcomed Ritual to the conversation in a LinkedIn post last week​ and shared links to efforts underway to advocate for the modernization of dietary supplement regulations.

“Calls to action – and voluntary efforts – to reform the supplement industry have come from responsible manufacturers for years, including from CHPA and our members, recognizing that, with rapid change and growth, comes new challenges and responsibilities,” he told NutraIngredients-USA.

He explained that DSHEA, which was a strong and comprehensive regulatory framework when it was established, has not kept pace with the size, scope and complexity of the supplement industry that is growing at a record-breaking rate.

“Reforming this framework now is an opportunity to further advance supplement quality and safety for decades to come,” he added. “This is why CHPA has been a longtime advocate for the modernization of FDA’s regulatory structure overseeing dietary supplements through comprehensive reforms including Mandatory Product Listing, increased cGMP inspections and Remote Regulatory Assessments.” 

As DSHEA approaches its 30th​ anniversary in October 2024, there has been an uptick in conversations at all levels around these topics and others like establishing a legal pathway to market for CBD, improving the drug preclusion process and calling for the resources needed to support a robust FDA.

In his response to Ritual’s letter to Congress, Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance and a key architect of DSHEA who has been a strong advocate for a united industry voice​ towards reform, said only: "What I have to say would best be said in private.”

‘Diverse and rich perspectives’

Ritual confirmed that it has been talking with several leading trade associations and is interested in joining efforts to update DSHEA.  In the past year, it has also met with representatives of relevant committees and politicians from both parties to discuss DSHEA reform and other policy priorities. 

Dahl said that the company will ramp up lobbying efforts as legislative proposals are introduced with specific language to address. 

“Ritual will continue to work with trade associations, organizations and individual companies on a path forward for reforming DSHEA,” she added. “We know major reforms take years to pass and require extensive stakeholder engagement. Having diverse and rich perspectives is what contributes to the best policy outcomes.”

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