Week in Review - Marketplace 2003, What's in a Word, And Ephedra's Last Stand

On the wires, once again CRN got off the mark proactively, challenging a July 1st article in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The article was intended to cast doubt on the benefits of vitamins for prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and the CRN release hit the wires well in advance of the general media pickup.In a very short week (on both sides of the border) there are few news items to present and review. Having returned from NNFA Marketplace at the beginning of the week, I find myelf sifting through tidbits of conversations and discussions about the woes of the industry, while a the same time inspired by a very dynamic and upbeat event put together by NNFA.

A significant amount of the NNFA show discussion was abouta new bill called the "Dietary Supplement Safety" Act (S.722) which has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bill, presented by Senator Durbin, proposes to expand the authority of the Food and Drug Administration and focuses on areas such as mandatory adverse experience reporting, premarket approval for supplements containing ‘stimulants’ (excluding ironically enough ‘caffeine’) and also deals with steroid precursors. The complete text of the bill can be found at: http://www.nnfa.org/services/government/pdf/s722.pdf , and also on the NNFA site is a link to contact your senators and express your opinion on the legislation. (http://capwiz.com/nnfa/issues/alert/?alertid=2103491&type=CO)

With California potentially going the way of Illinois and New York in banning ephedra containing supplements, has the industry lost its opportunity to something proactive and constructive? Most say yes, although the possibility exists that some positive PR and goodwill would materialize with industry’s strategic retreat from the ephedra sales and marketing field. Continued participation is doing damage to an already tarnished reputation and we are missing a narrow window of opportunity to take a high road and salvage some respect. Sun Tzu knew when to strategically withdraw from the field to be stronger to fight again another day.

Several meetings and discussions this past week dealt with definitations and semantics. According to PR and communications professionals in touch with consumers, the term ‘dietary supplements’ are becoming interchangeable in people’s minds with ‘diet supplements.’ I’m sure we can all see the danger this represents and many will agree that the term ‘nutritional supplements’ serves the sector better. Fast-forwarding – is the adjective diet (dietary) becomingredundant and the term ‘supplement’ now being associated exclusively with diet products?

Should we be speaking about "products for nutritional ‘Support’ or Enhancement"? Whatever we select, two things are apparent. Firstly, we’ve got to carefully watch the words we use and that are used to describe the industry. Secondly, we must realize that although we protest that certain companies with unethical and irresponsible practices or products are not part of our industry ‘as we see or know it’, the reality is that they are part of our industry as far as others, with the power to influence our future, do see it. And on that subject, how many labels and pieces last week in Las Vegas would have been of interest to both the FDA and FTC – and for the wrong reasons?

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