CRN files emergency plea to block NY law

The Council for Responsible Nutrition is seeking an injunction to prevent a New York state law from taking effect that would restrict the sale of some supplements, while formal legal challenges to the law are resolved.

Hank Schultz, Senior Editor

April 4, 2024

3 Min Read

At a Glance

  • CRN has filed for an injunction to prevent NY law to restrict supplement sales from taking effect.
  • CRN argues that the definition of which supplements are covered by the law is unconstitutionally vague.
  • The group also argues the law violates free speech protections.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has filed an emergency motion in federal court to forestall the enforcement of a New York law that restricts the sale of some dietary supplements. The law violates both the U.S. and New York State constitutions, the trade group maintains. 

CRN announced today that it had filed an emergency motion in the Southern District of New York to prevent enforcement of Assembly Bill A5610, passed last year, that bans the sale of “weight loss” and “muscle-building” supplements to minors.   

Disputed theory of harm to eating disorder sufferers 

Supplements that fall in those categories would have to be placed behind the counter or otherwise locked up so that minors could not purchase them. Some academics maintain these kinds of supplements exacerbate eating disorders, endangering underage consumers who might be susceptible to such conditions. 

CRN’s president and CEO Steve Mister has previously asserted there is no credible scientific evidence to support the link between supplements and eating disorders.   

“This new law was pushed by social advocates relying on an unscientific and meritless argument that dietary supplements somehow cause eating disorders in young people, when the research shows they do not,” Mister said in a statement issued today. 

Related:NPA to seek injunction against NY law related to weight loss supplements

The potential penalties under the new law are substantial, Mister said. CRN anticipates that if the bill goes into effect, access to these products will be restricted for all consumers, not just minors. 

“If we stand by and allow this law to go into effect, it won’t help young people with eating disorders, but it will stop families in the Empire State from purchasing the trusted nutrition products they use to keep their families healthy,” he said. 

CRN attacks law for vagueness, free speech harms 

The law is aimed at products marketed, labeled, or otherwise represented to achieve weight loss or muscle building. But the law is unconstitutionally vague on this definition, which could lead well-meaning manufacturers and marketers to violate the law without even realizing it, CRN contends. Ultimately, many retail outlets and online marketplaces may conclude that selling such products is not worth the risk. 

CRN also argues the law unconstitutionally restricts free speech. 

“Right now, this law is wide open to interpretation and incredibly ambiguous in terms of how it gets enforced,” said Mister. “This vagueness will create uncertainty in the retail marketplace, which will ultimately result in retailers deciding not to sell many dietary supplement products, as they will err on the side of caution in an attempt to not break this ill-defined law.” 

The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, named as the defendant in CRN’s motion, responded today with a letter to the court. The letter refutes CRN’s claims one by one, including questioning whether the organization even has standing to bring the case in the first place. 

CRN's filing came several days after the Natural Products Association unveiled plans to file for an injunction of its own.

CRN believes chances for success are good 

Mister said despite that response, he believes CRN has a good chance to get the law put on the shelf while the formal legal challenges to it work their way through the courts. 

“We are very optimistic about our case,” Mister said. “We are confident that we have sound legal arguments on all of those counts.” 

He added the spirited challenge to the New York law will help slow or stop similar efforts in California and Massachusetts. 

“This motion for a preliminary injunction is a shot across the bow for the laws in those states,” he said. 






About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

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