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Unbeknownst to the millions of consumers who rely on nutritional supplements on a daily basis for optimal health and peak performance, a cadre of top-level executives and leaders in the health, nutrition and dietary supplement industry recently met to safeguard fair and legal access to vitamins, herbs and amino acids.
Convened in a nondescript ballroom of a Southern California hotel, the subject of this year‘s Nutrition Business Journal Summit centered around the siege that the supplement industry has been experiencing of late, courtesy of Capitol Hill. A quote from long-time supplement industry adversary Rep. Henry Waxman‘s (D – CA) new book, The Waxman Report, set the tone for the type of adversity that industry insiders as well as consumers are facing.
“As policy, DSHEA [Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act] has been every bit as harmful as we feared, demonstrating anew that any market lacking regulation or the need to ensure safety quickly sinks to the lowest common denominator.”
While none of Mr. Waxman’s “lowest common denominator's” were in attendance, the biggest names in sports nutrition retail were representing: Joe Fortunato, CEO of General Nutrition Centers (GNC); Tom Tolworthy, CEO of Vitamin Shoppe; and Jeremy DeLuca, President of Bodybuilding.com were all present and participating. They and the entire NBJ Summit assembly are well aware of what lies on the horizon: The right to take an active participatory role in one‘s health, and one of its guardian angel bills, DSHEA, may be in for the fight of its life.
Addressing the assembly on the final day, and flying the flag of The Coalition to Preserve DSHEA (www.dshea.org and http://saveoursupplements.org), was the CEO of GNC, Joe Fortunato. Most dramatically, Mr. Fortunato brought with him a video addressed to this year‘s Summit members from Rep. Waxman‘s bitter rival (on this subject) and co-sponsor of DHSEA, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch (R) who further echoed the severity of the issue:
“The benefits that DSHEA brought to industry and consumers alike are on the verge of being rolled back to an era before its enactment in 1994.” Senator Hatch is referring to a dark period when the possibility of long and expensive pre-market approval, similar to what pharmaceuticals go through, was proposed for even the simplest of supplements such as vitamin C and essential amino acids. Senator Hatch went on to say that he will continue his fight, but that he needs the support of other members of the House and Senate – members of whom you and I are constituents and need to contact repeatedly.
In other words, it seems as an upcoming battle to preserve DHSEA is inevitable so arming yourself with the facts about dietary supplements is important if you want to preserve access to these products. For starters, the dietary supplement industry is in fact regulated, contrary to what some media outlets, doctors and politicians would have you believe. In fact, it‘s regulated by the FDA. Also overlooked by those critical of the industry is the recent enactment of new cGMPs (Current Good Manufacturing Practices) for most of the companies that manufacture your dietary supplements. This means more stringent testing, cleaning and documentation protocols – all to insure consumer safety and product purity through traceability and accountability. However, if you only paid attention to recent media smears and the very few good old fashioned royal screw-ups, you may think that the supplement industry is a den rife with charlatans, ne‘er do-wells and Somali pirates. That simply isn‘t representative of the entire industry, regardless what folks such as Waxman and others would have you believe. To stay informed and join the fight, check out organizations like the Coalition to Preserve DSHEA and contact your Congressmen and state Senators. You can also visit your local nutrition retailer to find out how you can help preserve your access to safe and effective dietary supplements.