Mass. bill to ban weight loss, muscle building supplements to minors suffers blow

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.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

May 9, 2018

3 Min Read
Mass. bill to ban weight loss, muscle building supplements to minors suffers blow

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, 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 Natural Products 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?"

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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