Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sports Supplements Are Regulated

To the editor (Times Herald-Record, Hudson Valley, New York state):

Your special report, “Supplements for athletes stir serious debate” (June 29, 2010) is interesting but presents some misleading ideas.

For example, the quote that “18.8 percent of supplements are tainted with steroids or other illegal, potentially dangerous ingredients” is seriously flawed, since the percentage actually refers to 240 sports supplements tested, a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of dietary supplements on the market. These products were actually tested 9 years ago when steroid precursors were legal; spiking them with steroids was always illegal. Today, thanks in part to the dietary supplement industry lobbying for a federal ban on steroid precursors, that product category is dead and this inflammatory quote does not reflect the present market. If any illegal drug is present in a product it is defined by law as an unapproved drug, not a dietary supplement, subject to FDA and DEA enforcement.

Regarding Senator McCain’s bill to more strictly regulate supplements: I met with him after the bill was introduced to present the inconsistencies between the actual bill and how he described it. Under the anti-bioterrorism bill of 2003 all dietary supplement manufacturers are already required to register with the FDA; as do all domestic or foreign food manufacturers selling in the US. Under several federal laws all ingredients already must be on dietary supplement labels. Failure to do so makes the products adulterated and subject to a range of FDA actions. His bill would actually have subjected each new product introduction to prior FDA approval, expanding the federal bureaucracy and amounting to a government takeover of the entire dietary supplement industry. Importing this Canadian-style regulatory scheme would duplicate that system’s failures: half as many products on the Canadian market, products considered safe in the US are effectively banned, waits of over 4 years to introduce variations of existing products, higher prices, etc.

Your series promises to disclose how the dietary supplement industry “is opposed to regulations.” That is absolute nonsense! The dietary supplement industry has long supported new laws and regulations that are reasonable, with these already in place: all vitamin companies must follow FDA-audited Good Manufacturing Practices requiring safety and identity testing, only FDA-approved ingredients can be used, steroid precursors are banned, and companies must disclose all complaints of adverse events requiring medical attention to the FDA within 15 days. The dietary supplement industry supports increased government authority to mandate product recalls in the Food Safety Bill. But the American people won’t stand for a major expansion of government power that gives bureaucrats absolute veto authority over each new consumer product, stifling innovation. That’s not only anti-capitalism, it’s un-American.

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