The FDA is bracing for an onslaught of dietary supplements and other products making false or misleading claims for the H1N1, or swine flu, virus. A quick Internet search found that a number of U.S. companies are currently touting products they say can prevent or cure the H1N1 virus. In an effort to get out in front of what could be a public relations nightmare and provide fuel for tighter supplement regulation in the future, a coalition of supplement industry trade associations issued a statement today urging supplement manufacturers and retailers to “refuse to stock or sell any supplements that are presented as treating or curing swine flu” and to "refrain from promoting any dietary supplement as a cure or treatment for swine flu.”
The groups backing the statement are the American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Natural Products Association. In their statement, the groups also noted that “federal law does not allow dietary supplements to claim to treat any diseases, including swine flu” and that they are “unaware of any scientific data supporting the use of dietary supplements to treat swine flu.”
The statement did note that “there are dietary supplements that have much to offer in terms of enhancing general immune function. However, therapies for the treatment of swine flu should only be recommended by qualified healthcare professionals or public health authorities.”
Given mounting public anxiety in the United States and beyond over the fast-spreading H1N1 virus, the associations’ action is an important step in encouraging the supplement industry to act responsibly and legally in the face of a potential health crisis. Let’s just hope companies heed their warning rather than put the industry in jeopardy by attempting to milk profits from public fear.