CRN responds to McCain's Senate floor statement on the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010

The Council for Responsible Nutrition sent a letter to the office of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in response to his Feb. 22 statement on the Senate Floor regarding his proposed bill to regulate dietary supplements:

Mr. President, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 that Senator Dorgan and I introduced earlier this month. This legislation has been widely discussed since introduction and many falsehoods and misstatements regarding it have been raised. I want to take a moment to clarify what this bill will and will not do if passed into law.

We introduced this legislation at the request of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, U.S. Olympic Committee, American College of Sports Medicine, American Swimming Coaches Association, National Collegiate Athletic Association, PGA Tour, U.S. Lacrosse, U.S. Tennis Association, U.S.A. Cycling, U.S.A. Gymnastics, U.S.A. Swimming, U.S.A. Track and Field, and U.S.A. Triathlon. Additionally, scores of parents, spouses and high school athletic coaches requested action by Congress or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assist them in ensuring the safety of dietary supplements.

I am proud that this legislation is so widely supported. However, opponents to this bill and their well paid Washington lobbyists have spread false statements and rumors about the legislation, which is really a disservice to consumers, and instead proudly boast that they remain largely untouchable by the FDA.

This legislation would simply require dietary supplements to list all ingredients on the packaging, mandate that all dietary manufacturers register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the FDA knows what is being sold and provide the FDA mandatory recall authority of any dietary supplement if the FDA finds the supplement to be hazardous to one's health.

Opponents have stated that the legislation would seek to limit consumers' ability to purchase dietary supplements, vitamins or prescription drugs. That is completely false. Opponents also claim the bill establishes a new regulatory structure for dietary supplements at the Food and Drug Administration. That is completely false. Opponents claim that this bill was only introduced to reign in a few athletes who took supplements and then tested positive for steroids or other substances banned by sports leagues. That is completely false.

This bill was introduced for the nearly half of all Americans who take a dietary supplement. People have died from taking dietary supplements, including a young mother and wife who lived in my home state, and thousands have had to be hospitalized or seen by a doctor due to an adverse reaction from a dietary supplement. It took nearly ten years (and then a lengthy court battle) for the FDA to ban the inclusion of ephedra in dietary supplements after ephedra was linked to a number of deaths. Such a delay should never happen again.

Additionally, the more than 100 million Americans who consume dietary supplements should be able to know the ingredients of any supplement, and these supplements need to be required to be listed on the product's packaging. If you go to a grocery store and pick up a box of cereal, bread, yogurt or any product off the shelf, you can read the product's label to clearly know the ingredients and be sure you aren't eating something that you find concerning, hazardous or unhealthy. Those who take dietary supplements should have the same option. Simply put, this legislation is about truth in labeling. This legislation is about giving consumers choice. If you take a vitamin now, this bill will in no way restrict your ability to take that vitamin. But the consumer needs to know the entirety of what is contained in that pill.

Additionally, clear labeling could save lives as it did for a Phoenix Suns star who took a dietary supplement sleep aid and stopped breathing. Fortunately, his teammates found the supplement bottle that listed the ingredients, and the emergency room doctors were able to use the information to give him an antidote in the emergency room moments later and save his life. The disclosure of ingredients on a dietary supplement can save lives; and therefore, it should be mandatory. With the new 'buzz word' in Washington being 'transparency,' I don't understand how any lawmaker could oppose such a requirement.

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