You started out at the Herb Research Foundation. How did you get there, and then from there to New Hope?
After many years working within mainstream health care, I began to understand how inadequate the system was. The system served those with acute and chronic illness and offered very little for the vast majority of individuals who lived between those two extremes. I became convinced that the conventional healthcare industry is more a system devoted to sick care than health care.
I began to investigate alternative, preventive, holistic and traditional approaches to health. As my interest and enthusiasm in these methods grew, my frustration with the conventional system increased, leading me to leave my work to learn more about these modalities. I eventually came to work at a non-profit organization called the Herb Research Foundation (HRF), a clearinghouse for scientific information on botanical medicines.
By the time the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act(DSHEA) passed in 1994, New Hope Natural Media (NHNM) Natural Products EXPOs had become a popular marketing and educational venue for manufactures, distributors and retailers, providing each an excellent opportunity to participate in the growth of the industry. So New Hope was in an excellent position to exert influence on the industry through the trade shows and publications it produced.
The NHNM Standards Program was developed in 1995. The original Expo exhibitor standards and guidelines were drafted under the guidance of Rob McCaleb, founder and president of the Herb Research Foundation (HRF). The first phase of the Expo exhibitor standards program was outsourced by NHNM through the auspices of The Herb Research Foundation.
While at HRF, I was fortunate to become part of this collaborative effort between New Hope Natural Media (NHNM) and HRF, which is ultimately what brought me to New Hope.
What does the program entail?
The goal of the program is to support industry self-regulation and help ensure the accuracy of information of products promoted at NHNM events, publications and websites. The Standards program helps to limit the liability for claims or products that could prove detrimental to both the organization and to potential advertising or exhibiting clients. We focus on five areas—safety, claims, ingredients, labeling, and literature.
The process involves pre- and post-Expo reviews of all exhibitor material. When exhibitor claims are noncompliant with the standards or federal regulations, we notify the client that the claims must be omitted or revised in order to exhibit at futureExpos. A failure to comply is cause for rejection from future Expos.
Surely the show floor at Expo West is too vast for you and your staff to see everything. Do attendees ever alert you to things they think you should review?
At every expo, there is a dedicated standards team that visits every booth to collect exhibitor material for a post show standards review. In addition to exhibitors and attendees, many regulatory consultants on the show floor report standards violations onsite. FDA and USDA regulatory officials also visit Expo booths.
At our events, virtually every NHNM employee in attendance become auxiliary eyes for the standards team and remains vigilant for potential standards violations.
If you could get a message to every company getting ready to exhibit at Expo East or West, what would you say?
The natural products landscape is currently impacted by public concern and awareness about the threat to the food supply. There is an increased global anxiety about tainted or contaminated ingredients and products. Consumers and retailers want assurance and confidence that the products they buy come from trusted sources. Suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and brokers should be held accountable for the products and ingredients they sell and the claims they make. Likewise retailers and advertising agencies must be educated about making compliant, non-deceptive product claims. We are all expected—including trade associations and media companies—to be actively involved in the self-regulatory process.
What are some of the worst violations you remember?
I think a couple of the standards team favorites were:
· Breast Enlargement Chewing Gum with more than 13 unique herbs for larger, fuller, firmer breasts in 30 days
· Virgin Again cream (no comment on the benefits)
-- Suzanne Shelton interviewed Don. Suz knows. She’s at sheltongrouppr.com