My decision to return to the Natural Products Association (NPA) was driven by my desire to re-enter the fast-paced, always-changing, dynamic world of the natural products industry. And I have to say, these last eight months have not only lived up to but surpassed what I expected we all would accomplish together. The successes we’ve had as an industry since April have enriched our livelihoods and helped protect our businesses.
I look forward to what we’ll accomplish in 2015, but first, I want to take a look back at the top 10 achievements we saw in 2014:
1.) Transition to New Industry Champions on Capitol Hill
This year, our industry made great strides in growing new legislative champions, while still supporting past ones and saying goodbye to one of our biggest supporters. NPA hosted more fundraisers to cultivate these new champions than anyone, including supporting Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Patty Murray, D-Wash;, and Tim Scott, R-S.C., as well as Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., for the ranking side of the Energy & Commerce Committee. We also continued to support longtime advocates for our industry, such as Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. At this year’s Natural Products Day, NPA also honored Sen. Harkin with a lifetime achievement award, thanking him for all he’s done for our industry.
2.) Dietary Supplement Coalition Re-Launch
In the spring, NPA re-launched its dietary supplement coalition, the Coalition to Advance Dietary Supplements, designed to help spread the word about our industry’s mission of health and well-being on Capitol Hill. The coalition effectively aids in getting more boots on the ground in the halls of Congress to share our message and affect change. With more than 40 percent new members in Congress since 2010, we simply can no longer rely on what was done in the past.
3.) Weight Loss Supplement Hearing
The Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee held its highly publicized hearing, “Protecting Consumers from False and Deceptive Advertising of Weight-Loss Products,” related to whether certain weight-loss companies were violating Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. The subcommittee members most notably cross-examined Dr. Mehmet Oz, who frequently endorsed weight-loss products as “magic” on his self-titled show. (I also testified on behalf of the natural products industry, calling out fly-by-night firms and speaking up for legitimate supplement companies.) Speaking of the FTC, we saw quite a bit of activity out of the agency this year, most recently with its action against the Bayer Corporation and its Phillips’ Colon Health product. NPA’s amicus brief was accepted in the case against Bayer and our arguments will be considered in the matter as germane.
4.) Proposed Redbook Additions
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed changes this fall to the “Toxicological Principles for the Safety Assessment of Food Ingredients,” or the Redbook, that would greatly affect the natural products industry. The proposal would include dietary supplements, cosmetics and other Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) regulated items under the Redbook umbrella. As directly mentioned in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), dietary supplements are exempt under a certain category of foods, and therefore cannot be regulated under the Redbook, which specifically applies to food additives. NPA was the only trade association that submitted oral comments at the public meeting on the proposed changes in order to protect our industry from this overstep by the FDA.
5.) NPA Membership Increase Benefits Entire Industry
A stronger NPA means a stronger grassroots base, which means a stronger industry overall. The membership at NPA has steadily increased since April, which supports NPA’s efforts in advocacy, education, communications and so much more. The work we do at NPA benefits not only our members but the entire natural products industry as well.
6.) Expanded Industry Education
With the addition of Corey Hilmas, M.D., Ph.D., NPA’s senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, NPA has grown our education efforts for the benefit of the industry. We’ve added in-person seminars on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and regulatory compliance, as well as increased the reach of NPA’s Wednesday Webinar Series to include topics relevant to our community, such as dietary supplement claims, New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) guidelines, changing regulations in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and information regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
7.) NPA Comments to FDA on Food Labeling
This summer, NPA submitted comments to the FDA regarding the revision of the nutrition and supplement facts labels. In our comments, NPA encouraged the FDA to present empirical data from consumer studies to support its changes to food labeling, and commented on specific areas including sodium, folic acid/folate and fluoride, among others.
8.) NPA Partnered with UL
NPA’s partnership with UL brings an unprecedented level of education and expertise to the natural products industry. The educational offerings, which include web-based and in-person trainings, are designed for both suppliers and retailers and extend to third-party certifiers and auditors, ensuring your business is in compliance.
9.) Focusing on More than Federal
Our industry must start focusing on the state and international scales, in addition to federal. NPA has led the charge for protecting the industry’s ability to do business in China by submitting comments on proposed regulation from the People’s Republic of China and encouraging the adoption of a strong GMP program to lessen the number of adulterated products, which would increase the level of imports and exports from the country. On the state level, NPA has been active with the proposed changes and additions to Prop. 65 in California to help our industry do business across state lines.
10.) Time Magazine Features Natural Products Industry
In June, Time Magazine provided a heightened level of exposure for the industry when it covered my return to natural products. It not only demonstrated the power of our industry, but also the changing mainstream consumer mindset toward healthier lifestyles. While there is no such thing as bad press, positive press is a shot in the arm for the industry.