Natural Foods Merchandiser

Influential NY task force targets supplements

A New York task force made public a report calling for reforms in the sale and marketing of dietary supplements. Released on Oct. 5, the report cites the ?relative lack of sound scientific data on dietary supplements, their limited government regulation and the current deficits in education regarding dietary supplements? as the basis for reforms.

Despite industry assertions that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ?ample authority under [the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act] to regulate supplements,? the New York State Task Force on Life & the Law disagrees. In its report, the task force calls for an expert committee to study specific dietary supplements in depth, collecting data from adverse events and research. The committee would then make recommendations to the Department of Health on ways to ensure consumer safety, and would permit changes in labeling and retail restrictions as needed. In its report, the task force also recommends an education campaign ?to fill the gaps in public information.?

Marc Ullman, a partner in the law firm Ullman, Shapiro and Ullman, said the report ?is another misleading attack, lambasting the industry as peddling unsafe, unproven, ineffective products. It is filled with footnotes and has the appearance of being authoritative. The industry must be willing to expend the necessary resources to rebut this report.?

One possible benefit to the report, Ullman said, would be if the industry recognizes ?the need to respond to and correct the misinformation in the report … especially if it prompts the industry to realize that it has failed to communicate its message to the public and media.?

In fact, the National Nutritional Foods Association has convened its own task force to respond. Adrienne Mastrobattista, president of NNFA East, is heading up the NNFA task force. ?Even though this is [only in] New York, normally what happens in New York will be picked up by other states—hence the quick response time,? she said. ?We?ve had one meeting so far, and everyone had the resounding comment of how inaccurate the report is.?

Mastrobattista said that the adverse-event reporting section of the Life & the Law task force recommendations could motivate the federal government to move more quickly on finalizing its own AER regulations. ?That particular portion will get the attention of the federal government and impact on the legislation that?s already been introduced. And any legislation passed on a federal level will supercede what?s happening on the state level.?

The New York State Task Force was convened in 1985 and has since made recommendations on determination of death, do-not-resuscitate orders, organ transplantation and many others. Many recommendations have become New York law.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 12/p. 1

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