Industry Pioneer Joe Bassett Dies

June 8, 2012

3 Min Read
Industry Pioneer Joe Bassett Dies

SYLVANIA, OhioJoseph M. Bassett, the co-owner of two Bassett's Health Food stores and a long time leader in the natural products industry, died June 6; he was 79 years old. According to his obituary, Bassett died of complications of a bladder and kidney infection.

Bassett and his wife Patricia started Bassett's Health Foods in 1969, bringing vitamins and supplements to the Toledo area. The retail outlet also offered a range of private label products, with formulas developed by Bassett, using his knowledge of nutrition. He was trained and licensed in nutritional and massage therapies.

He was also actively involved in supporting consumer access to dietary supplements, actively participating as a member of the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA, now the Natural Products Association). During his first term as president of NNFA from 1993 to 1995, he was critical in leading efforts to pass the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), which created a new regulatory paradigm for dietary supplements. During his second term as president, from 1997 to 1999, he continued to champion the industry's goal of providing clear, substantiated information about the health effects of supplements to consumers. He was a founding member of the National Institute of Nutritional Education, president of the Mid-American Health Association, and chairman of Citizens for Health and a National Health Federation board member.

Jeff Wright, the current president of NPA, said, "Joe was a champion for NPA and a great advocate for natural products. I remember his words at a retail town hall meeting in 1995 that motivated me to become more involved in the association. He was one of my friends that encouraged me to do more. Joe will be remembered for his great contribution to NPA and the industry."

James Gormley, vice president and senior policy advisor, Citizens for Health (CFH), commented on Bassett's many achievements: "In 2010, Loren Israelsen told me that after the 1992 Tahoma Clinic Raid, people began to think: 'Wow, what are they prepared to do to stop us from taking vitamins.' And this legitimate fear began to spread like wildfire across the country. On the grassroots side, Joe Bassett and the northwest region of NNFA expanded an early incarnation of CFH in order to mobilize consumers and health-food stores against these threats. Along with Bassett were Jim Golick, Margaret Isely, Bonnie Minsky, Dr. Joan Priestley, Alex Schauss, Craig Winters and many others. After the DHSEA victory, Sen. Orrin Hatch commented: 'I want to cite the dedicated efforts of Citizens for Health, whose thousands of members have worked tirelessly and unselfishly to make this an informed and successful debate. There is no question in my mind that the work of this citizen army makes todays victory possible.' And that was a tribute to Joe Bassett, who was the force majeure behind these efforts. In recent years, Joe rejoined the board of Citizens for Health, and he became an inspiration today for a whole new generation of health-freedom activists. Of all of the industry leaders I have met, Joe had the most love for the health-foods movement. When health-freedom advocates would get together, Joe's eyes would well up in tears out of joy and appreciation for the dedication to health justice and freedom that we all shared. But it was love and appreciation that we all felt back. And that love was for Joe Bassett, one of the greatest generals that grassroots advocacy ever had and one of health-food industry's most effective, outspoken and powerful modern-day pioneers."

Bassett is survived by his wife; three children, Joseph Jr., Sabrina and Charmaine; seven grandchildren; and three great grandchildren. Tributes can be made to the Joseph M. Bassett Memorial Fund online.

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