NY AG Takes Dietary Supplements Fight to Congress

April 2, 2015

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s letter asks Congress to launch investigation on supplements.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s letter asks Congress to launch investigation on supplements.

 

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is taking his beef with the dietary supplements industry to Capitol Hill. On April 2, a group of 13 state attorney generals led by Schneiderman sent a letter to leading members of Congress urging that lawmakers “launch a comprehensive congressional inquiry into the herbal supplements industry, and to weigh a more robust oversight role for the Food and Drug Administration.”

The action caps off a week that began, to industry dismay, with AG Schneiderman’s office forging an agreement with supplement marketer GNC that mandates GNC report DNA and allergen test results to the AG’s office on a biannual basis. Dietary supplement industry leaders criticized the agreement, stating that the NY AG’s office is obtruding into regulatory territory that FDA and its Good Manufacturing Practices mandates already govern, and also pointed out that GNC’s investigated products were in fact found to meet all federal regulations.

Still, according to AG Schneiderman’s website, “Concerns raised by state investigation suggests need to vigorously pursue manufacturers and retailers who break public health and consumer protection laws.”

Dietary supplement group the Natural Products Association (NPA; Washington, DC) censured the NY AG’s actions thusly: “Attorney General Schneiderman has admitted that the federal Good Manufacturing Practices currently in place for dietary supplements are sufficient, and companies such as GNC are in compliance with those, but yet he moves forward in his request to spend federal taxpayer dollars on an investigation into an industry that is fully regulated by the FDA.The Natural Products Association regards this most recent action by Attorney General Schneiderman as added harassment based on science fiction. For the past two months, the attorney general has continued to escalate his attack on the supplement industry without any legitimate data to back up his arguments.”

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, NPA’s executive director and CEO, issued further comment based on his recent experience as former head of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs. “I have seen firsthand how the agency may take swift and forceful action when dietary supplement companies violate federal regulations,” he said. “The FDA is properly equipped to identify and go after firms that pose a threat to public health. Attorney General Schneiderman’s claims that the FDA doesn’t have ample authority in this area show a complete misunderstanding of the regulatory structure in place to protect consumers and remove products from the market.”

Given the direction the NY AG has been headed, some may find this latest action involving Congress unsurprising. Schneiderman started in February by pulling select dietary supplement from shelves following his office’s investigation of some major dietary supplement manufacturers and retailers. He then assembled a coalition of state attorney generals to further investigate the industry, and then this week announced his agreement with GNC. This latest action indicates that his crusade against the dietary supplement industry is far from finished.

The attorney generals’ letter to Congress also cites “broader problems” within industry highlighted by past reports: high levels of heavy-metal contamination, false labeling, and adulteration. The attorney generals ask that Congress look into existing regulations and quality-assurance procedures for dietary supplements and to consider “the extent to which Congress should mandate, or direct the FDA to develop, enhanced, uniform, industry-wide quality assurance and verification regimes to guarantee the source, identity, purity, and potency of materials incorporated into herbal and dietary supplements.”

Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) president and CEO Steve Mister acknowledged in a statement that “there are some problems facing our industry,” but emphasized that those problems have to do with illegal actors and not law-abiding supplement firms at large, and that FDA does have enforcement authority to pursue those breaking the law. “We wish that the state AGs had focused their efforts on helping solve the serious problem of criminals who spike products with illegal drugs and market them illegally as dietary supplements.” Mister also continued to criticize AG Schneiderman office’s “lack of transparency” in its investigation.

Mister emphasized that his association would cooperate in answering any questions from Congress.

 

Jennifer Grebow
Editor-in-Chief
Nutritional Outlook magazine jennifer.grebow@ubm.com

 

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