Judge dismisses NPA’s lawsuit to overturn NY law restricting some supplement sales

A lawsuit filed by the Natural Products Association to overturn a New York law has been dismissed by a judge in that state. The law in question restricts the sale of weight loss and muscle building supplements to minors.

Hank Schultz, Senior Editor

June 14, 2024

3 Min Read

At a Glance

  • NPA filed a request for a preliminary injunction against a NY law. 
  • The law restricts the sales of weight loss and muscle building supplements to minors. 
  • The suit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning NPA can refile a complaint to challenge the law. 

NPA’s lawsuit to overturn a New York law that restricts the sale of weight loss and muscle building supplements to minors has been dismissed. 

The news came Thursday, June 13, via a memorandum and order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. In dismissing NPA’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law, Judge Joan M. Azrack ruled NPA did not have standing to bring the suit in New York State. She dismissed the suit without prejudice, meaning NPA can refile a complaint, and, according to NPA’s president and CEO Dan Fabricant, Ph.D., the court battle is not over. 

“This was an odd decision; the Court appears to have misapplied the law on organizational standing,” Fabricant told Natural Products Insider. “However, the door is open to appeal and the case refiled. We’re exploring all options and aren’t done fighting this.” 

The dismissal of NPA’s suit comes on the heels of a ruling on a similar lawsuit filed by the Council for Responsible Nutrition. In that lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. found CRN had standing and allowed the case to go forward, but only on First Amendment grounds. The rest of CRN’s claims were dismissed. 

The New York law went into effect on April 22. Brick and mortar and online retailers within the state cannot sell weight loss and muscle building supplements without requiring proof of legal age (at least 18 years old). The ostensible reason for the law is to address concerns that these kinds of supplements can exacerbate eating disorders. 

The purported association between eating disorders and the supplement products targeted in the state law has been most prominently put forward by a research group called STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders) that is housed within Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

Stakeholders within the dietary supplement industry have stridently combatted the notion that such an association exists. In addition to their assertion that there is no scientific evidence backing a link between supplement use and eating disorders, stakeholders maintain the New York law and others like it that have been proposed in other states including California and Massachusetts will restrict access to these products for all consumers — not just minors. 

Ruling on standing 

In dismissing NPA’s suit, the judge determined NPA did not provide enough specific information to establish standing. For example, she noted two affidavits in NPA’s court filings — including one provided by NPA member NOW Foods — failed to identify “a single product that plaintiff’s members intend to continue selling subject to the statute’s age-based sales restriction,” or “any product that its members intend to continue selling without such restrictions.” 

“While both affidavits state that NPA members sell and/or distribute products containing certain ingredients referenced in the statute, neither affiant indicates whether those products are labeled or represented as being for weight loss or muscle building, nor whether members intend to continue selling those products now that the statute is effective and if so, whether they intend to age-restrict,” Azrack wrote. 

Similarly, the judge was not convinced that NPA adequately showed “the statute will force its members to face a substantial risk of suffering economic harms that are actual or ‘sufficiently imminent’ to support standing.”  

NPA alleged that as a consequence of the law’s enactment, its members will suffer increased shipping costs, increased costs related to implementing age-verification procedures, and loss of revenue and online sales to brick-and-mortar stores. 

“But as with its asserted threat-of-enforcement-related injuries, plaintiff’s affidavits lack any specific detail demonstrating that any of its members has actually incurred the above costs to comply with the statute,” the judge wrote. “Nor has plaintiff shown that such a financial undertaking is sufficiently imminent for any of its members.” 


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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