Supplement Perspectives

DSHEA, 20 Years Later: The Law Also Applies to Retailers

Now is a perfect time for manufacturers to remind retailers of their obligation to DSHEA, writes Mark Becker.

I love the New Year. Its a way to launch new goals and objectives. 2014 is significant to our industry for another reason: it is the 20th anniversary of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).

The oft-maligned DSHEA details regulations about the manufacture and sale of dietary supplements, defines a dietary supplement as a product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one of more of the following dietary ingredients: a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or other botanical, an amino acid, a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake; or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any ingredient noted above.

The act defines permissible labeling claims and places the burden of proof on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to show that a product is unsafe. It also outlines safety requirements for new dietary ingredients.

With the ongoing scrutiny of DSHEA and the increased legal and regulatory developments over the past several years, natural products retailers are often left wondering where they fit into this complex puzzle. After all, retailers are the ones who interface with the end usertheir customer. What can retailers truly tell their customers? An unsuspecting retailer was recently taped by GAO investigators making false product claims and providing medical advice to their customers. This sting thrust the retailers role in complying with DSHEA into the spotlight. 

Understanding all aspects of DSHEA can be daunting. Many retailers have questions surrounding the regulationsand rightfully so. Many are looking for guidance on how to effectively train their staffs to accurately and appropriately discuss the products on their shelves. It is vital to operate within the DSHEA framework so customers get what they need and stores maintain their solid reputation with the FDA. No retailer wants to be exposed for non-compliance; that would be catastrophic for everyones business.

To celebrate this important anniversary, manufacturers need to remind retailers that DSHEA applies to them as well. The websites for the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Natural Products Association have plenty of information how retailers can be DSHEA-compliant when talking to customers. Also, retailers can get FDA warning letters on a wide range of marketing materials including:

--Social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Google + and on and on). Social media has become a very powerful marketing tool and can be a lightning rod for the FDA.

--Websites and microsites

--Print materials of all kinds (e.g., ads, brochures, flyers, etc.)

--Trade show materials

--Customer testimonials

--Educational materials of all kinds

--Private label product labeling and associated marketing materials

Manufacturers also have to do their best to keep their allies on the straight and narrow. Retailers need to be cognizant of whats featured in their stores, because brands that are noncompliant with their labels or marketing material could get them in trouble. Marketing materials are only considered an extension of a particular brand if it has that brand name or logo on it.

Our industry has evolved into one of increased oversight and regulation everywhere, including the retail sector. Everyone has to step up their game.

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