On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994, congressional staffers learned the history and impact of the comprehensive law that created the modern dietary supplement industry and in the process ensured continued consumer access to a wide range of safe and regulated nutritional products.
The educational briefing and luncheon, held on Oct. 14 by the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus (DSC) in cooperation with the leading trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry—the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the Natural Products Association (NPA), and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA)—provided the staffers with a background of the regulatory environment prior to the passage of the law, the issues that led to introduction and eventual passage of DSHEA, as well as the impact of the legislation in the 20 years since.
When signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Oct. 25, 1994, DSHEA crystalized Congress’ intent to officially recognize the role supplements can play in health promotion and in the prevention of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and osteoporosis. The legislation, for the first time, defined supplements as a distinct category of food products, established a new regulatory framework and created a mechanism for dealing with safety issues, regulated health claims and labeling.
In addition, DSHEA provided for good manufacturing practices and established new government entities to review the regulations and to encourage research on dietary supplements.
Twenty years later, the supplement industry, fueled by consumers’ continued interest in enhancing their health and wellbeing, has grown from around $41 billion in sales to $35 billion, with more than 150 million Americans taking dietary supplements annually.
The briefing was led by Scott Bass, a partner in Sidley and Austin LLP, who was one of the lead industry negotiators with Congress and the Food and Drug Administration during the drafting of DSHEA; and Patricia Knight, founder of Knight Capitol Consultants. Knight was the chief of staff for DSHEA co-sponsor Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and was one of the lead staffers responsible for drafting and the passage of DSHEA.
DSC educational briefings are held throughout the year, featuring nationally recognized authors, lecturers or authorities on health and wellness, who provide tips and insights for better nutrition, including how dietary supplements can contribute to a healthier lifestyle. These briefings also help to educate congressional staff about constituent access to safe and beneficial dietary supplements and legislative and regulatory issues associated with these products. In addition, DSC members receive regular updates on any new and ongoing developments in the dietary supplement arena.
The DSC has enjoyed robust growth this year, reaching an all-time membership high with 32 members. Founded in 2006, the DSC provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information on dietary supplements—directing attention to the role of dietary supplements in health promotion and disease prevention.