Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts Legislature have reportedly put the brakes on a bill that would ban the sale of weight loss and muscle building dietary supplements to minors.
The Joint Committee on Public Health has sent HB 1195 to a “study,” which the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) reported effectively kills its “prospect for passage” in the current legislative session. Bills sent to a study rarely progress further in the legislative process, according to MassLegalServices.org, an online poverty law library and resource for legal services advocates in Massachusetts.
The bill had 20 co-sponsors from the 160-member House. It was widely opposed by leaders in the dietary supplement industry.
“This bill does nothing more than attempt to restrict consumer access to safe, legal, and strictly-regulated products,” said Mike Greene, senior vice president of government relations with CRN, in a statement. “CRN thanks legislators in Massachusetts for recognizing the needless burden HB 1195 would place on consumers and businesses alike.”
Rep. Kay Khan, a Democrat from Newton and psychiatric nurse, felt differently. Maxwell Geist, a spokesman for Kahn, told INSIDER about a year ago that Khan introduced the legislation “out of concern for protecting minors from potentially damaging substances that lack adequate federal oversight.”
“Dietary supplements for weight loss and muscle-building have been linked to eating disorders and body dysmorphia, as well as more acute medical incidents and trips to the ER,” he said in an emailed statement on May 12, 2017.
Faculty at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brought the issue to the attention of lawmakers, he explained.
Greene argued the current federal regulatory regime not only adequately protects consumers, but HB 1195 wouldn’t enhance consumer safety.
“If passed, HB 1195 would prevent responsible consumers from purchasing weight-loss and fitness supplements that are backed by considerable scientific evidence and a long history of safe use,” he said in his statement. “Further, the bill would place an economic burden on Massachusetts’ 400 private retail establishments and 300 registered pharmacies that carry these products.”
Geist did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill’s current status.
In October 2017, a coalition testified in opposition to the bill, Greene observed.
“It’s very difficult to formally oppose something there [in Massachusetts] and stop it without building strong coalitions,” he said in an interview.
Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA), who testified last year in opposition to the bill, said the industry needs to remain vigilant. He warned the bill could resurface after being referred to a study committee in the legislature.
“If the study committee comes back and says, ‘Oh my God, yah we have to do something,’ you can best your bottom dollar when [lawmakers resume] in the fall that it might be on the agenda, so we got to stay vigilant against it," he said in an interview.
Kahn introduced similar legislation in 2015 that would have barred the sale of weight loss or muscle building supplements to people under the age of 18. Fabricant blasted the legislation, saying in a 2016 interview, "We’re talking about building muscle. Well, milk builds muscle. Are you going to put milk behind the counter?"