Dietary supplement retail should be deemed essential business, industry associations urge amid coronavirus lockdowns

March 20, 2020

As more states across the U.S. close businesses in the effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, dietary industry associations are urging state governors nationwide to allow dietary supplement and natural product retailers to remain operational as essential businesses.

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president and CEO of the Natural Products Association (Washington, DC), wrote in letters to governors: “It is imperative that essential businesses such as health-food stores that provide nutritional supplements and other health and wellness products are allowed to remain open for business during this public health emergency.” Fabricant also urged states to allow local businesses who can’t continue operating to apply for economic assistance.

Meanwhile, four other industry associations—the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA)—sent a joint letter to governors nationwide urging regulators to not only authorize ongoing business for dietary supplements and other FDA food divisions but also to ensure that businesses up and down the supplement supply chain can remain active.

The four associations wrote: “[W]e respectfully request you mirror the White House/CDC guidelines and make special accommodations for critical infrastructure industries that specifically include not only conventional foods but all subcategories of food, including dietary supplements, infant formulas, medical foods, and spices and flavors…We also request that your communications on the essential nature of these supplier companies explicitly state that this status must apply throughout the supply chain, to include upstream suppliers (e.g., suppliers of ingredients, excipients, and other manufacturing materials; transportation and warehousing; and necessary service providers, such as analytical labs used to verify ingredient identity and prevent contamination).”

The associations also took the opportunity to highlight the important role dietary supplements play in consumer health. “Dietary supplements qualify as essential because of their unique position as both food and healthcare products,” states the AHPA/CHPA/CRN/UNPA letter, noting that supplements are also linked to billions of dollars in healthcare savings.