Natural Foods Merchandiser

Governments Continue Ephedra Crackdown

The business climate for makers and marketers of supplements containing ephedra and ephedrine alkaloids continues to chill as state and local governments stiffen rules for selling the supplements typically used for weight loss or athletic training.

On Dec. 18, Suffolk County, N.Y., lawmakers considering an outright ban on ephedra sales instead passed a resolution preventing retailers from selling the product to anyone under the age of 18. The legislators acknowledged that clinical studies indicate ephedra is effective but said minors lack the judgement to use the supplements correctly.

On Dec. 31, California Gov. Gray Davis signed a new law requiring dietary supplements containing ephedrine to display a warning and a toll-free number for consumers to report adverse reactions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The law also bans the sale of ephedra to minors.

Health & Nutrition Systems Int'l. said it will join Twinlab Corp. and drop its ephedra-based line of supplements. HNS will stop selling products, including Fat Cutter Plus and Thin Tab, because its supplier is unable to obtain liability insurance for the supplements. Ephedra accounted for about 19 percent of HNS's 2002 sales.

After determining Metabolife Int'l.'s flagship Metabolife 356 ephedra-caffeine combo is defective, a San Bernardino County jury in December concluded the product was not responsible for a California man's stroke. Metabolife said the verdict "vindicates the safety of Metabolife 356." The jury, however, found there was a "defect in the design of Metabolife;" that the company was negligent in the manufacture, distribution or sale of the product; that it made misrepresentations about the product; and that it tried to conceal or suppress material facts.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 2/p. 14

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