It’s vital newly elected senators and representatives hear regulatory truths about dietary supplements early and often. In meetings with freshman legislators, industry members—including representatives from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)—explain the principles and importance of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA); the regulatory structure of dietary supplements; and underscore the industry is, in fact, regulated. We share information about industry’s quest for reasonable regulation and our history with FDA and FTC, as well as the efforts that led to the enactment of the serious adverse event reporting law for dietary supplements and the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act (DASCA).
Above all else, we ascertain the level of interest the lawmakers have in dietary supplements. If there is a professional or a strong personal interest, we encourage they join the Dietary Supplement Caucus, and we stay in touch.
Meetings with newly elected officials are necessary because DSHEA was enacted more than 20 years ago. The most current estimate of senators and representatives in office when DSHEA passed into law is now less than 9 percent. So it’s important industry continues to reach out, share information, and explain the unique regulatory structure that exists for our industry.
As the industry plans for the new Congress, the outcomes of the 2016 elections have created an unusual political environment. There is a Republican administration, in addition to a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate. While much of 2017’s agenda is still speculative and under discussion, it will undoubtedly be one of fixing much of what is believed to be wrong with Washington. The industry must work to ensure dietary supplement regulation is implemented and enforced.
More than 170 million Americans take dietary supplements each year, and we must do everything we can to strengthen and maintain consumer confidence in the products they love and trust. This means fully enacting and enforcing DSHEA. It means embracing reasonable regulation when many industries will be asking Congress to overrule and overturn regulation. We must continue to promote adequate funding for the new Office of Dietary Supplement Programs within FDA, the former Division of Dietary Supplement Programs. We must continue to stress why this office is necessary and vital to a strong and vibrant dietary supplement industry.
Moreover, the current congressional environment provides opportunities and renewed interest in revisiting long-standing policy objectives to allow dietary supplements to be deductible from tax-free medical savings accounts, such as a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), or to remove restrictions on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for low-income Americans, enabling them to use their benefits to purchase a multivitamin. Neither policy objective would require individuals to take or use dietary supplements, but both would provide choices to further health and wellness goals and fill nutrient gaps. Many lawmakers see value in pursuing both programs, and CRN will work with the industry to ensure it becomes a reality.
However, the industry won’t only work on promoting the benefits of dietary supplement products and strengthening the culture of health and wellness, but we’ll also defend the industry without question. For the last two years, there have been repeated attempts to add detrimental amendments to the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the legislative vehicle that authorizes funding for the armed forces. Working closely with lawmakers to ensure none of these unnecessary and duplicative amendments are accepted, the industry needs to continue to protect consumer access to dietary supplements, ensuring there are no amendments or changes to DSHEA until they are needed.
The industry has repeatedly opposed legislation introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act (DSLA), which would mandate a dietary supplement registry covering all products sold in the United States, among many other requirements.
Lastly, industry needs to remind lawmakers that industry and its grassroots are strong and healthy. Supplement manufacturers, ingredient suppliers and retailers operate in all 50 states, provide good paying jobs, and generate billions in state and local taxes. Therefore, it’s vital we continue to engage with lawmakers and staff in Washington and in all 50 states to remind them of the principles of DSHEA, the importance of health and wellness, and the simple reason why dietary supplement regulation came to be: Consumers and voters wanted it.
Mike Greene is the vice president, government relations of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry.