California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes bill restricting access to weight management dietary supplements

In a letter to the California State Assembly, Newsom explained that because “dietary supplements for weight loss are not considered drugs…this measure would require [the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)] to evaluate every individual weight loss and dietary supplement product for safety, which is beyond the scope of the department's capabilities.”

California’s governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed Assembly Bill 1341, which would restrict the sale of dietary supplements marketed for weight management to minors. In a letter to the California State Assembly, Newsom explained that because “dietary supplements for weight loss are not considered drugs…this measure would require [the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)] to evaluate every individual weight loss and dietary supplement product for safety, which is beyond the scope of the department's capabilities.”

This would be a lengthy and costly process given the amount of supplements on the market. As a result, Newsom is directing CDPH to form a workgroup, inclusive of academics and medical experts, to develop public policy recommendations on how to address the public health challenges outlines by the assembly bill.

The bill’s author, Assemblymember Christina Garcia expressed disappointment at Newsom’s decision in a press release. “It dumbfounds me that kids’ health and safety was not prioritized by the Governor. This was a common sense bill that aimed to protect minors. AB 1341 was a compromise between diet pill manufacturers and sellers that is the least restrictive to any individuals over 18 wishing to purchase these products while restricting the access minors will have to them," said Garcia. "We need to do everything we can now, not later, to protect our youth from the harmful effects caused by weight loss supplements and over-the-counter diet pills. With the current easy access, our youth are subject to eating disorders and many other health implications. We need to stand up to an industry that puts profit over people, and the Governor has failed to do that with his veto.”

Industry advocates such as the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, D.C.) and The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA; Silver Spring, MD) worked with the bill's authors to soften language and find a compromise that made the final product less burdensome on industry should the bill pass.

"CRN had multiple conversations and a good working relationship with bill author Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and her staff,” said CRN's vice president of government relations, Julia Gustafson, in a press release. “We appreciate her willingness to include practical measures in the final version of her legislation that limited its scope and removed behind-the-counter restrictions.”

Previous drafts did name specific classes of supplements, which were eventually removed from the lanugage. Additionally, input from industry led to the removal, in the bill, of language that made retail clerks liable and forced retailers to physically restrict access to these products by moving them behind the counter or into locked cabinets.

Industry advocates such as the Natural Products Association (NPA; Washington, D.C.) have long questioned the logic of the bill, citing a complete lack of adverse events related to eating disorders, based on a Freedom of Information Act request. NPA has also expressed concern about the open-endedness of the bill’s language as it relates to the products subject to the bill’s restrictions. Even after language was softened, the Association raised alarms about how restricted products will be chosen, and the potential impact this might have on stakeholders.

“AB 1341 fails to list specific ingredients or products of concern, nor does the sponsor point to any dietary supplements that are the genesis of this legislation during testimony in the assigned committees,” wrote NPA in a letter to CDPH. “Instead, AB 1341 tasks you as the Department of Public Health Director to consult with the public to determine which dietary supplements shall be prohibited for sale to consumers under 18 without a prescription.”

Hence Newsom’s concerns about the significant undertaking of evaluating the safety of individual products to determine whether they pose a public health risk to minors. “This is a decisive victory for California consumers, the natural products industry and science.Supporters of this bill like STRIPED used a range of completely false claims and zero science to jam this through with no evidence, but to his credit Governor Newsom and his team looked at the facts and made the right call. NPA members had a big hand in persuading him by sending thousands of messages that made their opposition clear,” said Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president and CEO of NPA, in a press release. “While we are extremely grateful Governor Newsom listened to the science, the fact remains other states need to now take now notice and ensure these draconian policies never again see the light of day. NPA is still currently battling to ensure similar proposals in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Rhode Island do not become law.”

Updated on September 30, 2022 at 1:46 PM