Dietary Supplement Safety Act has nothing to do with safety

Published 1:40 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To the Editor:

Nutritional supplements are on the chopping block again. John McCain has introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that would increase the FDAs regulatory control over the supplement industry. If passed, the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 would create more red tape and additional registration and reporting requirements for everyone from manufacturers to health food store owners to multi-level distributors who sell supplements out of their homes. As a result, it would drive costs up and put smaller companies out of business.

Worst of all, this legislation would give the FDA the power to arbitrarily ban supplements. If an ingredient isnt on a list to be prepared, published, and maintained by the Secretary, its illegal. If an herb or nutrient is even suspected of causing harm, its history. If a new, effective, well-researched compound is discovered, it will have a hard time making it into the marketplace, no matter how helpful it might be- unless, of course, its a patented drug.

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When Sen. McCain introduced this bill, he referred to professional athletes who had tested positive for steroids after taking supplements that had been illegally spiked with drugs. He also mentioned that ephedra was reported to have contributed to the deaths of Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler and Vikings tackle Korey Stringer.

Please do not be taken in by this talk of safety. Supplements are not dangerous. According to the most recent annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, not a single death was attributed to a nutritional supplement in 2008. Yet every year, prescription drugs kill more than 100,000 people and harm millions. A hundred thousand deaths in one year. Thats almost twice the number of Americans who died in the 17-year war in Vietnam.

The FDA already has ample authority to pull supplements from the market. Although ephedra was never definitively proven to be the cause of the athletes deaths and more significant factors, such as heatstroke, were also involved, the agency banned the supplement. It also unjustly took tryptophan off the market for many years and outlawed a form of vitamin B6 last year. The last thing this dysfunctional bureaucracy which is rabidly biased against nutritional supplements needs is additional clout.

Despite its name, the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 has nothing to do with safety. Its just more unnecessary, ill-advised, freedom-quashing government interference in our lives. I encourage you to contact your two Senators by phone, fax, or email and urge them to oppose this oppressive legislation. Look for contact info in your local phonebook or call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121. To learn more or to send an email message against the bill to your Senators, visit

submitted by Peggy Carter