At this point, the torches and pitchforks should be gathering dust.
Many of us can remember a time when the natural products industry thought the best defense to an accusation was to make an accusation, aimed at either Big Pharma or Big Ag or whatever band of businessmen thought to lurk behind the latest negative headline. We remember that time because it’s still happening.
That doesn’t mean it should keep happening.
When the supplement industry becomes a target, the solution isn’t to try making somebody else a target. We need to take the target off our backs altogether.
News of the New York recall came to the NPA last Monday. The New York Times had the headline the next day, and the products were yanked off shelves across the country, not just in New York. Within hours of the pixels hitting the screen, we issued an NPA statement questioning the findings and asking the investigators to release the details.
If you have seen this movie before, you know that the health issue, if there ever was one, is hugely overstated, but you know that bad news earns more clicks than good. You know this sells papers and boosts the profile for the New York Attorney General.
You know that, but is it really worth talking about?
This case, like so many others, needs to be argued on its merits, especially when the merits are so clearly arguable. Anybody who had studied the proper protocols would know that plant DNA does not survive the extraction process.
That’s what we talk about. We talk about the science.
When we hear the ubiquitous charges that the industry is unregulated, we talk about the regulations that are on the books right now to prevent adulteration, whether it’s the truth in this case or not. More than that, we talk about the enforcement that the supplement industry wants to see, and what NPA member companies are doing to help.
I have been saying that the industry’s lobbying reach should include demanding that the FDA get the resources it needs to do the job. If the regulations were being enforced, the darker corners of the industry would disappear. The light would be too bright.
And the charges that the supplement industry is “unregulated,” the loudest echo in the echo chamber every time we see headlines like we saw this week, would lose volume if the regulations were unquestionably enforced.
It wouldn’t hurt if the next headlines about questionable products came from the industry itself. With better science presented more fairly, we could call out the bad players we all whisper about. When we see bad GMPs or bad practices of any kind, we write letters to those companies. I have said it’s not the supplement industry’s job to regulate supplements, but maybe we should cc the New York Times on some of those letters.
If the industry is going to be a target, we could decide where that target should be. We can’t even be a target if we are firing the shots. That’s how we build trust. Companies and organizations almost universally suffer less backlash if they come out with full transparency, airing the dirty laundry and escorting the skeletons out of the closet.
So that’s what we talk about. The industry is part of the system, not working against it.
I still think the pitchforks and torches should be gathering dust, but if they are going to come out, we should be marching with the regulators, not against them.