Ashish Talati, Partner

December 27, 2011

3 Min Read
Keeping Retailers in Compliance with DSHEA

Between ingredient research, formulation, manufacturing, packaging, and marketing, by the time a dietary supplement hits the shelves, companies are counting on retailers to ensure a return on these investments by adequately promoting products to consumers. However, it can be difficult for retailers to meet these expectations. As a result, claims cannot only be embellished, but sales personnel often translate claims into medical diagnoses. 

To avoid this type of marketing, which can create liability for the retailer, but also the manufacturer, work is required on your end to ensure retailers are legally marketing your supplements. Manufacturers should establish a retailer/associate training program that reviews and outlines the proper way to sell a dietary supplement and the pertinent parts of a label (i.e., claims and supplement facts) to further consumer understanding.

Ideally, the training program should include hypothetical scenarios and customer interactions to properly illustrate how to sell your products. By the end, retailers should always advise their associates to:

1.) Remind customers to check with their physicians or pharmacists before consuming any dietary supplements or beginning any supplement routines. (Manufacturers, remind retailers that your supplements are NOT designed to substitute for any medications or recommendations by their doctor, and that dispensing medical advice without a license is illegal);

2.) Discourage the questioning of customers by associates, especially health questions that may lead to medical diagnoses;

3.) Avoid any deviations from the literature you provided or extend the claims beyond the scope of the information, labels, and labeling provided by your company;

4.) Avoid mentioning particular companies or brands when referencing third- party literature. Only advise consumers that they carry a certain type of supplement;

5.) Avoid personal or outside testimonials about products, even if they know a family member, friend, or celebrity who experienced positive results.

What else should manufacturers be aware of?


Provide third-party literature indiscriminately to retailers. Use third-party literature for initial sales purposes, and adequately explain the limitations of its use in future sales for the product. Specifically list the ways in which third-party literature can be displayed in a retail establishment. For example, it

1.) Must not be false or misleading;

2.) Must present a balanced view of the available scientific information on the dietary supplement;

3.) Is physically separate from the dietary supplements;

4.) Does not mention the name of any manufacturer or brand; and

5.) Does not have any appended information by sticker or other method. 

Also, inform retailers to let third-party literature speak for itself, and avoid any advising based on its contents.


Provide displays with built-in literature that accurately describe product claims and limitations. Retail associates can then easily point consumers to this information, or review it with them. Routinely police retailers, especially small businesses that are more likely to provide detailed customer service. Secret shoppers are an excellent way to determine if guidelines for selling your products are being followed.

Finally, above all else, stay informed of any new laws and industry regulations that may apply. Have employees attend training programs and trade association events, and annually update internal training programs to adequately keep your company abreast of the latest regulations.

Following many of these guidelines can ensure that your products are sold within the confines of DSHEA while protecting your investments. 

About the Author(s)

Ashish Talati

Partner, Amin Talati Wasserman LLP

Ashish Talati is a partner with Amin Talati Wasserman LLP. He primarily counsels clients on matters of regulatory compliance, helping them anticipate and address regulatory issues in their day-to-day business operations and strategic planning. He is considered a leading authority in the areas of generally recognized as safe (GRAS) requirements and new dietary ingredients.

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