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Supplements In The Senate—Again!

Supplements In The Senate—Again!
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senateThe Senate Special Committee on Aging is chaired by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI). The Committee may be about to take some potshots at supplements during a hearing scheduled for tomorrow, May 26. Everyone involved is being very hush-hush on what they’ll be discussing. We have, however, learned of a couple of items on their agenda.

Supplements used as drugs
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent undercover shoppers into health food stores with tape recorders to see whether they could get store employees to give them information on the treatment of their ailments, and many did so.
This information may be used to support the notion that supplements should go through the same lengthy and exorbitantly expensive approval process that patented drugs do. The argument will be that supplements are being used like drugs to treat medical conditions, so they should be treated like drugs. The truth is, it’s simply a case of some store employees sincerely wanting to share their knowledge and help people and not following the rules closely enough.
Product purity
The GAO also took samples of the forty top-selling herbs and tested them to see whether they were contaminated with heavy metals or other toxins. ConsumerLab found contaminants in a number of the samples, and is on the witness list for the hearing. However, the GAO and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) both found the supplements to be within acceptable levels.
The point which needs to be made at the hearing is that the supplement industry is already regulated by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power to protect consumers from those few supplement manufacturers not following the rules, something which it has refused to do.
In an earlier administration, we know that the FDA intentionally chose not to monitor supplements, hoping that this would lead to a crisis and thence to an expansion of FDA control. Perhaps partly in response to this history, Senators Tom Harkin (D–IA) and Orrin Hatch (R–UT) plan to introduce the “Dietary Supplement Full Implementation and Enforcement Act of 2010” before the hearing (and may have already done so by the time you receive this newsletter). This act will fully fund DSHEA and give the FDA more resources to ensure proper enforcement.
You will be able to view the live webcast at the Senate Special Committee on Aging website on May 26 at 2:00pm.
We’ll provide a complete summary of the hearing in next week’s newsletter.

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