If you’ve ever watched a kids’ dodge ball game, you’ve probably seen the following unfold before you: one unlucky guy or gal is left standing to face, say, five or six aggressive players from the other side. This poor soul must duck line-drives from the left, catch lobs sent to the back of the court, and leap over balls hurled down the center. Survival is part skill and part luck, both of which can be aided by smart team members shouting, “It’s coming from the right!”or “Look out for Jenny’s ball,” and the like.

Hmm. Attacks from all sides? Fending for survival? Sound familiar?
Regs, Regs and More Regs
I got the impression that the natural products industry is in the middle of a long, drawn-out dodge ball game of sorts while researching for this month’s supplier feature (see page 35, Regulatory Update 2011). The industry has its work cut out for it right now, what with the Food Safety Bill affecting our businesses, new exceptions for genetically modified organisms attacking the very concept of organic, possible new guidelines from Codex to deal with and even new recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that don’t line up with our own research.

While we’re not trying to dodge regulations, it certainly feels like we’re being targeted from every direction. Thankfully, I thought while writing the feature, we have the industry associations to keep an eye on these developing regulatory issues and keep us all abreast of them.

But is it fair to rely on just a few people to do this job for all industry members? How many of us sit back and wait for the next e-mail from our associations to tell us what’s going on in Washington? And, how long do we wait before we actually do something about it?

Think about all the legislation that is proposed in Congress each year; and consider how much more is brought up at state and local levels. If you’ve ever waded through some of these proposed bills, you know that just one hearty piece of legislation can take days to completely digest. Now, multiply this times 10,000; that’s how many bills are introduced by some Congresses, though much fewer gain traction. The number feels like even more if revisions fire back and forth. And, that doesn’t even count what’s going on in your own state.

From reimbursements to organic farmers, to the right to sell supplements, our industry is very closely tied to the decisions made on Capitol Hill. We can’t afford to let even one possible threat progress without standing up for ourselves, yet not all of us are doing everything we can to support the associations we see as front-line fighters for our cause.

Last Man Standing
So, what can we do? For starters, become members of groups like the Natural Products Association, the American Herbal Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3, the Organic Trade Association and others. They need your financial support and your active participation in their efforts. Consider attending NPA’s Lobby Day (April 6, 2011) or plan to participate in future lobbying events or petitions.

You can also keep an eye on what’s developing locally from a regulatory standpoint and contact your regional trade association offices about threats. In sum, be a contributing player on the natural products industry team. If we all play our hardest in the game of regulations—or stand shoulder to shoulder on the sidelines with resources and preparedness to jump in—we’ll achieve far more than we ever could have as casual spectators. WF

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
Editor/Associate Publisher

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2011