On Election Day this November, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is expected to win his seventh term as a U.S. Senator. Among the hundreds of races contested on Nov. 6, Sen. Hatchs will go down in history as one of the most remarkablenot just of this election cycle, but of the last 50 years. Only six months ago, the pundits wrote him off as one of a dying breed of senior, Senate Republicans doomed to defeat at the hands of tea party, super PAC (political action committee) rivers of money and a deeply divided public looking for relief from years of grinding recession. In the midst of all of this, Sen. Hatch never flinched, never complained and never engaged in the personal attacks launched against him.
Being a Utah resident and dietary supplement industry executive, as well as a friend of Sen. Hatch since 1978, I had a ring-side seat watching this two-year boxing match. The melee began in April 2010 when Utahs other Republican Senator, Bob Bennett, was given the bums rush by the State Republican party and tossed out of office. The crystal-clear message being sent to Sen. Hatch was You are next." From then to now, Sen. Hatch has run one of the most professional, disciplined and effective campaigns in modern political history. Case studies will be written about how he was labeled a dead man walking," but went on to win by one of the largest margins of victory in any of the November Senate races. This is a testament to his personal character and intense fighting spirit belied by his courtly and gentlemanly personality, which has been his hallmark attribute.
On Nov. 6, many of us will be gathered at SupplySide West in Las Vegas, and I hope we will pause for a moment amid the hustle and bustle of the show to celebrate and appreciate Sen. Hatchs remarkable victory and reflect on what this means for the U.S. dietary supplement industry. For those of you who have never personally met Sen. Hatch, I hope you will make a point to do so; shake his hand and thank him for his unwavering leadership and support of our industry, beginning with his sponsorship and passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). His advocacy has continued up to his most recent meetings with FDA to urge them to reconsider the new dietary ingredient (NDI) draft guidance, which is of such great concern to many of us. He does this because he believes in dietary supplements. He believes Americans have the right to freely choose such products at affordable prices, with reliable information at their disposal, and with the least interference from government as is appropriate. He has stood cheek to jowl with Ted Kennedy, Henry Waxman, Dick Durbin, John Dingell and FDA Commissioners to defend DSHEA and your right to manufacture, sell and use these products. His long and productive relationship with Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, a liberal Democrat, is another remarkable example of his philosophy of bi-partisan and collegial cooperation, all to the purpose of doing the peoples business and solving real problems.
This 20-year era of DSHEA (1992 to 2012) is unique in American political history. This law was passed in the very last minutes of the 1994 Congressional session, having been given up for dead numerous times. Many compromises were made to the bill in those last minutes, but virtually all to the advantage of industry. And consider this: in 18 years, DSHEA has never been amended. This is a remarkable fact, as well as a tribute to the extraordinary skill of the team that drafted and re-drafted DSHEA into a document that has withstood numerous efforts to amend it.
But there are new realities that we must both accept and act on if DSHEA is to remain the foundation of our Congressional mandate:
- DSHEA is a privilege, not a right. It was created by an act of Congress, and it can be changed or repealed by an act of Congress. The Congress of 2013 will be full of new members who know nothing about DSHEA, and what they do know largely comes from newspapers, which is often a pejorative perspective.
- Sen. Hatch has announced this is his last term. He has urged our industry to begin the long process of creating a new generation of DSHEA advocates in Congress. This process will be more in the nature of creating informed and supportive friends of DSHEA rather than looking to the champions of the caliber of Sen. Hatch and Harkin to lead the way. This new task falls to each of us. We are the voters. We are the constituents, and we are the electors of the elected. Each of us must be informed and effective voices if we are to gain the confidence and support of those in future Congresses.
- For some years now, the vision of DSHEA, a manifesto of consumer freedom to choose, has been manipulated by some as a means to a fast buck, shoddy product quality or downright deceptive acts. This must stop. While FDA has oversight responsibilities for GMP (good manufacturing practice) compliance, spiked products, etc., the true burden to root out the rot within the industry falls to us. No external regulator can effectively do this. This issue of disrespecting the vision of DSHEA is, in my opinion, the single greatest threat to DSHEA itself.
As we enter this last six years of the Hatch/Harkin era, let us celebrate the victories of DSHEA, the growth of our industry and the tremendous opportunities to serve the health needs of our country. The greatest tribute and act of thanks we can give to Sens. Hatch and Harkin is a well-ordered, well-run, self-disciplined industry that manufactures products of unquestioned quality and integrity that bring greater health, wellness and prosperity to the millions of Americans who believe in the healing power of nature.
Loren Israelsen is executive director of the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), a trade association of dietary supplement companies committed to safety, science and quality. He has been involved in the commercial and regulatory issues facing the global dietary supplement industry since 1980.
Explore the political dynamics that affect the supplement industry at the SupplySide West education session, "Elections 2012," with Mike Greene, vice president, government relations, Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), Loren Israelsen, executive director, United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA) and John Shaw, executive director and CEO, Natural Products Association (NPA) on Tuesday, Nov. 8, at the Venetian Sands Expo, Las Vegas.