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Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

The first quarter of 2014 has already brought its fair share of legislative challenges and opportunities for the natural products industry, but industry members who voice their concerns and opinions on Capitol Hill can help achieve positive regulatory outcomes.

The Natural Products Association (NPA) often meets with members of Congress and their staffs on Capitol Hill to ensure that the supplement industry is protected from legislative threats. We are there to educate legislators and garner support for our industry.

2014 has already brought its fair share of legislative challenges and opportunities for the natural products industry, and there are certain issues that NPA is watching closely as the year progresses:

1.            The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act: NPA endorsed this legislation that would require FDA to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients so consumers can make educated decisions about the foods they buy. By endorsing the bill, NPA became the first and largest natural products industry trade association to back the legislation. NPA’s endorsement of the bill came just months after the association called for all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be accurately labeled under a national uniform standard. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) in April 2013.

2.            Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2013: Introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), this legislation would require manufacturers to register dietary supplements with FDA, and amend labeling requirements. NPA believes this legislation would create redundant regulations for the dietary supplement industry. Provisions in the bill would require businesses to provide FDA with a name, description, list of ingredients and copy of the label for each of their products; the Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to create a list of potentially dangerous ingredients and proprietary blends with subsequent warnings; manufacturers making structure/function claims to submit substantiation for such claims to FDA; and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to define conventional foods.

3.            Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2014 (DASCA): This legislation, introduced by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and supported by NPA, provides DEA with new tools to identify and quickly respond when new designer anabolic steroids, also known as illegal drugs, are falsely marketed as dietary supplements. DASCA will provide new guidelines for the DEA to address products that are “substantially similar" to anabolic steroids and that have been illegally marketed to promote muscle growth; place new anabolic steroids on the DEA Controlled Substance List; change the criteria for placing additional anabolic steroids on the list going forward; and allow DEA to respond faster to stop those criminals who create new anabolic substances closely resembling listed ones, but tweaked just enough that they are not identical to their flagged counterparts.

4.            Dietary Supplement Caucus(DSC): This group of legislators seeks to enhance congressional attention to the role of dietary supplements in health promotion, and addresses the regulation of the dietary supplement industry. NPA wants to grow this caucus and encourage new industry champions. Sen. Hatch and retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-IA) are current caucus members. The DSC was founded in 2006 and provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information on dietary supplements. It serves as a bipartisan and bicameral group of legislators who facilitate discussions among lawmakers about the benefits of dietary supplements, provide tips and insights for better health and wellness, and promote research into the health care savings these products provide.

NPA advises for these issues, and we also demonstrate to each office the impact that the natural products industry has in each district or state, emphasizing the amount of constituents who shop in our industry’s stores and consume our industry's products. But we can’t do it alone. There’s strength in numbers, and it’s time to make our collective voice heard with lawmakers.

During Natural Products Day, on April 8 in Washington, NPA members and industry stakeholders will be given the opportunity to meet with members of Congress and voice their concerns on hot topics affecting our industry. With our industry readily expanding and attacks coming from all angles (in Congress, from federal agencies and in the mainstream media), it’s more important than ever for us to come together to ensure legislators hear our thoughts and concerns.

Natural Products Day participants will visit Capitol Hill offices to meet with senators, representatives and their staff to discuss legislation and regulatory activity affecting the natural products industry. There will be a trained, seasoned professional lobbyist with each group that will facilitate conversation and aid wherever needed. Following afternoon Capitol Hill meetings, NPA will host a Congressional Champions Reception thanking prominent senators and representatives who work hard to support initiatives important to the industry.

John Shaw is CEO & executive director of the Natural Products Association (NPA, npainfo.org).

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