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Encounters, Awards and the Motorcade

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Yesterday, I attended Natural Products Day, the one day each year that scores of industry members from across the country descend on Capitol Hill to discuss natural products regulatory issues with their respective Congressional representation. The Natural Products Association (NPA) crafts an informative morning of education on current regulatory concerns for industry as well as effective techniques on making the best use of the short time each meeting provides.

There are no pressing bills on the table in either the House or Senate, but NPA was keen to make us all aware of expected bill introductions, some proposing measures good for industry, but some not so good.

1. Senator Orrin Hatch is sure to reintroduce his bill to allow consumers to spend FSA and HSA dollars on dietary supplements, which would be a boost to public health via prevention and would offset any tax-related costs by lowering use of health care insurance and subsequent burden on the health care system.

2. The Designer Anabolic Steroid Act is also expected to emerge in the Senate sometime soon, aiming to provide federal authorities more time to deal with new designer steroids that continue to pop up in the sports market. These designer 'roids would be kept off the market—no rage for you!—while authorities undertake the necessary steps to analyze the compounds and place them on the controlled substances list when appropriate. If passed, this would keep these stealthy bad guys out of sports supplements and out of the bodies of athletes, especially young sports enthusiasts. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

3. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has surely not given up his efforts to impose additional requirements on dietary supplements via reintroduction of his Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2011. Here is an in-depth look at the legislation when it was first proposed,  but in a nutshell, it would create redundant registration requirements for manufacturers and require them to reveal any proprietary formulas; it basically tries to go over the heads of FDA and DSHEA and create unnecessary work and paperwork. Referring to the list of dietary ingredients and proprietary blends the bill would require Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to maintain, industry attorney Jack Martin told us, during our morning session, "Once you have a list, what Happens next?"

4. Each Senator or Congressman was asked to join or rejoin the Dietary Supplement Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral (both houses of Congress) group to foster education on dietary supplement benefits and health savings fro their preventive use. Attendees were successful at creating interest and encouraging  members to join the caucus.

In addition to the legislative issues, NPA also released its very new position on GMO labeling—the board had only approved it the night before. Find the full position details at NPA's website.

For industry folks, all this regulatory talk may be interesting enough, but remember we were in the governmental hotspot in DC, where anything can happen.

Most meetings are with staffers, as the Congressional members have very busy schedules. Coming out of a room in Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) office, where we met with her legislative assistant, we practically bumped right into the senator.

Shortly before that meeting, I was prevented from cutting across the back of the Capitol Building by an eruption of police and temporary blockades. Apparently, President Obama  and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny visited the House of Representatives for St. Patrick's Day ( two days late), and they left from the rear. Unfortunately, they drove the opposite way, so only the natural products lobbyists at the Rayburn and other House office buildings could see the motorcade, leaving those of us on the backside of the Capitol to grumble about being disrupted for nothing.

The day of meetings ended in the office of Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), where a small group of us, including two of his NJ constituents and NPA  executive director and CEO John Shaw, talked supplement issues and thanked the Congressman for his ongoing support and understanding of our industry's issues. Shaw presented him with an award.

left to right: Beth Lambert, Herbalist and Alchemist; Jim Roza, Reliance Vitamins; Rep. Frank Pallone; John Shaw, NPA 

What a day. You should check it out next year.

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