Coalition of AGs Demands More Oversight of Supplements from FDA

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Albany, NY—New York Attorney General (NYAG) Eric T. Schneiderman is continuing his unfounded assault on the herbal supplements industry. Schneiderman along with Indiana’s AG Greg Zoeller assembled an interstate coalition of AGs that are calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have greater oversight of the herbal supplements industry.

The group penned a letter asking Congress to make an inquiry into herbal supplements  and to give FDA “more robust oversight” over the industry.

The announcement comes on the heels of Schneiderman’s agreement with GNC that reneges on his initial mandate to stop the store’s sale of certain supplements that he believes failed DNA identity testing. Of course, herbal extracts rarely have the plant’s DNA in tact due to extraction and/or processing, thus making Schneiderman’s testing methodology inappropriate for testing finished products.

Nonetheless, the coalition feels the results gained from the NYAG’s faulty testing of herbal supplements are enough to raise serious concerns about herbal supplements quality and safety. It also cited data suggesting many industry companies do not comply with good manufacturing practices and accused herbal supplements of containing dangerous levels of heavy metals.

The group stated, “The states will continue to vigorously pursue supplement manufacturers and retailers who break public health and consumer protections laws and endanger the health and well-being of the residents of our states. Congress and the FDA, however, are ideally positioned to hasten a broad-based solution that guarantees the safety, efficacy, and reliability of the herbal supplements sold nationwide.”

Specifically, the AGs want FDA to re-evaluate the adequacy and effectiveness of current quality assurance measures for identity and quality testing of ingredients and finished products, as well as consider creating “quality assurance and verification regimes” to guarantee the source, identity, purity, and potency of herbal supplement contents. The group also suggested FDA create requirements for testing the safety and efficacy of finished herbal and dietary supplements.

Also of note, the group wants FDA create standards and restrictions for the accuracy and marketing of product labels “including use of the terms ‘natural,’ ‘herbal,’ and ‘extract.’”

Natural Producrs Association (NPA) CEO and executive director Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., had some harsh words for the group, calling this most recent action "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."

Fabricant says he has seen first-hand from his time as the former head of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, how the agency takes quick and appropriate action against dietary supplement companies that violate federal regulations. He states, "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.”

The letter to Congressional leaders is co-signed by AGs from Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, the Northern Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2015 (online 4/2/15)