Washington, DC—The Natural Products Association (NPA) hosted its annual federal government advocacy Fly-In on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 22. More than 100 natural products industry members gathered in D.C. to meet with members of Congress and their staff. This was the largest Fly-In Day post-pandemic, with retailers, brands, suppliers, and industry stakeholders from across the country welcome to attend. Attendees included representatives from NOW Foods, NutraBolt, RidgeCrest Herbals, IFF, Lonza, OmniActive, Nutrition 21, Host Defense, Vitamin Shoppe, Sirio, Vidya Herbs, Leif Labs, and more. WholeFoods Magazine was there, along with other media including Price Plow, NutraIngredients, and Informa.

As Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., NPA President and CEO, has emphasized: “Engagement matters; I cannot stress enough how important 2024 is for this industry." Dr. Fabricant pointed to razor-thin margins in the House and Senate, an important election this November, and monumental issues for the industry such as FDA’s reorganization as key issues that need our collective focus.

Heather Wainer, WholeFoods Magazine Publisher and VP of Media, was in attendance, and shared her top takeaways: "The day started with an address by NPA Chairman Mark LeDoux, who left us with this sound bite: ‘If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.’ NPA’s Dr. Fabricant and Kyle Turk then shared some of their experiences with advocacy, and Matt Warnock from RidgeCrest Herbals offered an update on the Free My Health initiative, and invited everyone to join this advocacy effort." (Learn more about Free My Health here.)

“I have been coming to this event for a few years now, and I learn something each time,” Wainer shared. “The one thing I know for sure is that each of us can make a difference. Altogether, we had 147 meetings that day." Among the topics that were discussed with lawmakers:

H.R. 4794 – Dietary Supplements Access Act 

More than 22 million Americans have a health savings account (HSA) with a consumer-direct health plan, but under current IRS regulations, Americans may only use their HSA dollars for dietary supplements if they have a doctor’s prescription. This is a problem in that many households would not schedule a doctor visit (which likely includes a copay) to buy a dietary supplement that’s already available over the counter. This Act would amend IRS regulations to allow Americans to purchase dietary supplements with funds from their HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs without a doctor’s prescription. 

Proposed FDA reorganization

An FDA reorg is under review at the Department of Health and Human Services, and NPA stresses that it’s unclear why dietary supplements would be placed within the same office as food additives, since there is a statutory firewall between dietary supplements and food additive regulations. "Attendees were delivering the message to Congress that the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODSP) should remain a free-standing office executing the agency’s responsibilities under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for dietary supplements," Wainer explained.

Mandatory Products Listing (MPL) for dietary supplements

Mandatory product listing is a hot topic in the industry. NPA and advocates on the Hill were encouraging members of Congress to oppose MPL.

Codifying FDA’s authority over dietary supplement regulation

There’s a lot of action at the state level (including lawsuits in NY over the new law to age-restrict access to certain supplements and California’s Prop 65). NPA stresses that state legislative proposals compromise FDA’s ability to fulfill its statutory mandates, and is asking Congress to promote uniformity by applying sound science (as is already authorized to the FDA by Congress )in regulating all aspects of foods and dietary supplements. Advocates asked members of Congress to support a waiver system that enables FDA to grant a waiver to any state seeking the addition of new food and dietary supplement laws that aren’t identical to what Congress has already established In the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). 

Reshoring and strengthening the dietary supplement supply chain

NPA cautions that the U.S. supplement industry is vulnerable to China, and the extent to which the U.S. relies on raw materials from China is a source of concern for U.S. companies. "NPA is encouraging Congress to introduce legislation that would strengthen the dietary supplement supply chain and increase manufacturing in the U.S. 

“Most of my meetings were with lawmakers and aides from New Jersey and Connecticut, and I was also able to sit in on meetings in Nevada and Washington.” Wainer shared. “One of the highlights was meeting with Representative Tom Kean, who is my hometown representative. He seemed to be agreeable on what we were suggesting.

“I also learned from others who joined me at the meetings more about how these issues affect their business,” Wainer continued. “We discussed the current situation of NMN, and how that has affected one company’s ability to do business and their frustration with the FDA. Another hot topic we discussed was New York’s new age-restriction law and how it affects retailers big and small, as well as consumers and e-commerce. Vitamin Shoppe shared quite a few stories about how their customers are being challenged by this new law.

“Now that the day is over, our work is not done,” Wainer stressed. “We need to continue to fight, and that is what NPA and other industry associations are doing for us. But we need to do it too. Write to your elected officials, invite them to your places of business, let them see first hand what we do and why we need their help. And join us at Fly-In Day next year!”

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