Natural Foods Merchandiser

Herbal Industry Organizes Against New York Legislation

The herbal supplements industry united for action last week when the New York State Assembly advanced legislation that could affect every retailer and manufacturer that sells supplements in the state. Assembly Bill A02762 would require all dietary supplements sold in New York to carry labels that include the toll-free telephone number and Web site for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and would require retailers to make sure manufacturers have "adequate substantiation" for any claims. Civil penalties would be assessed for noncompliance.

"This is a heck of a burden to lay on retailers and the industry," said Karen Robin, a spokeswoman for the American Herbal Products Association.

The bill's summary cites inadequate federal oversight and regulation as the reason for the legislation, but AHPA president Michael McGuffin said, "This legislation is misguided in its intent and problematic for AHPA members who do business in New York."

"It sounds really simple," said Robin, "but in their justification, they're painting this industry as if we're putting out unsafe products. ? If agencies use the tools in their possession, they can protect the people."

The bill, originally introduced more than a year ago, passed through the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee last month and was referred to the Assembly Codes Committee. The bill's primary sponsor is Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-51st Assembly District, who has a history of getting consumer-related legislation passed despite industry objections. The Codes Committee is the last stop before the bill reaches the Assembly floor.

Marc Ullman, a principal with New York law firm Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, expressed concern that the summary could set the tone for discussion on the Assembly floor.

Ullman said the best plan for the herbal industry is to build a coalition to share the financial burden of supporting a lobbyist. Those interested in learning more can contact Robin at [email protected] or Ortiz at [email protected]

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