Lion of DSHEA – Loren Israelsen – reflects on 30 years

The DSHEA at 30 Summit was held on June 10, which NutraIngredients-USA hosted in association with the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA). UNPA President Loren Israelsen, who played an instrumental role in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, reflects below on the summit, as well as the past, present and the future of the industry.

Loren Israelsen, President

June 24, 2024

3 Min Read
UNPA President Loren Israelsen (left) speaks on June 10 at the DSHEA at 30 Summit in Salt Lake City, during a panel discussion with NOW Health Group CEO Jim Emme (right) and others. “DSHEA has aged, of course,” Israelsen writes, “but the architecture remains solid and fit for purpose.”Photo courtesy of Clint Calder / United Natural Products Alliance

The DSHEA Summit will be added to that short list of events that changed things. It did for me. To look back, assess the present and consider the future was just the right way to help us see where we are and what comes next — on a personal and professional level.

I felt such gratitude to have worked with such fine people as Trish Knight, Peter Reinecke, Scott Bass and others during the battle for the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), and the 30-plus years of respect and friendship we still enjoy. I’m appreciative of the personal and professional leadership of people like Jim Emme, Christine Burdick-Bell, Mark Blumenthal, Raj Chopra, Sandy Gooch, Doug Green, Greg Horn, Ken Murdock, Cheryl Bottger, Jeff Bland and so many others who lead this industry to realize much of our potential and continue to do so.

I remember those now gone: Elwood Richard, Steve McNamara, Jim Beck, Steve Sinatra, Don Catlin, Milton Bass, Bob Ullman and many more. The list grows too fast. It is reassuring to see a new generation of young leaders hear the call and declare themselves as bearers of the torch. Among them: Joey Savage, Sarah Burden, Nate Freeman and Kathy Wickenden.

I name names in hopes that others will join the ranks of defenders of health freedom.

Related:FDA, industry experts reflect on DSHEA at 30 Summit

I also look back on our relationship with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA of 1994 and the FDA of 2024. While the industry has grown nearly 15-fold, the agency remains underfunded and lightly staffed. This means we must embrace self-regulation and policing as our primary defense against intruders who enter our industry and take but do not give in return.

Finally, I feel we have reached a critical juncture 30 years down the DSHEA highway. DSHEA has aged, of course, but the architecture remains solid and fit for purpose. However, the world around DSHEA has changed, almost beyond recognition in many ways.

The summit clarified my view that our debates around such issues as DSHEA 2.0 (not the best term), mandatory product listing (MPL) and new dietary ingredients (NDIs) will become circular if they have not already.

I find this ironic but perhaps we should do what then-FDA Commissioner David Kessler did in 1992 when he asked this question: Assume dietary supplements are not regulated; how should they be? Perhaps we should be asking the same question in 2024.

The assignment is now to envision the world as it is and will become and how dietary supplements take their place in that world. This will open our minds to new routes of administration, diagnostic tools, surrogate endpoint-based research, AI-derived innovations, traditional medicines, HSA (health savings account) card payments, synthetic copies of botanicals out of environmental necessity, and fermentation of nutrients to secure domestic sources of critical nutrition.

This is the world we are in or will soon find ourselves.

We did not think about the internet when negotiating DSHEA — let’s not make that kind of mistake again.

About the Author(s)

Loren Israelsen

President, United Natural Products Alliance

Loren Israelsen is the president of the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), an international association representing many leading natural products, dietary supplement, functional food and scientific, analytical and technology companies that share a commitment to provide consumers with natural health products of superior quality, benefit and reliability.

Founded in Utah in 1991, UNPA was instrumental in the passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) and continues to take a leadership position in regulatory issues and industry best practices.

Israelsen has been deeply involved in the commercial and regulatory issues facing the global dietary supplement industry since 1982. He has served as VP general counsel to the American Herbal Products Association as well as industry liaison to FDA's Expert Advisory Committee on Ephedra and a founding member of the International Alliance of Dietary Supplement Associations. For years, Israelsen has worked closely with the leading academic institutions and publications in the natural health field. He has authored over 150 articles, book chapters and has lectured in 30 countries on dietary supplement and functional food issues. He is the recipient of the NBJ Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Natural Product Association's President's Award.

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