In response to a Tribune story detailing widespread problems in the manufacture of dietary supplements, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., have sent letters to three major supplement organizations asking them to spell out their plans to improve conditions in the $28 billion industry.
"We are deeply concerned about the poor manufacturing standards that expose consumers to potentially serious health risks," Durbin and Blumenthal wrote. "Consumers should have access to dietary supplements that meet fundamental quality controls."
"The good manufacturing standards have been final since 2007, and many of the practices that have been cited as failing to comply are basic, common sense safety practices that should not require regulatory guidance in the first place," they wrote.
Last month, the Tribune reported on the results ofU.S. Food and Drug Administrationinspections of supplement companies since it began enforcing new manufacturing rules four years ago. FDA inspectors found violations of the rules in half of the 450 firms they inspected. One in 4 received a warning letter from the FDA, considered a significant enforcement action. Dan Fabricant, head of the FDA's Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, has characterized the inspection results as "downright scary."
In an interview, Durbin, who has fought for greater regulation of the dietary supplement industry for years, said he was alarmed by the Tribune's report. "Everyone should expect products be safe and wholesome," he said.
The letters from Durbin and Blumenthal stressed the need for improvements from the industry.
"The (Natural Products Association) welcomes this dialogue with Senators Durbin and Blumenthal," John Shaw, CEO of the Natural Products Association, wrote Monday in an email to the Tribune in response to the letters. "We look forward to sharing with them what we are doing to make sure that dietary supplement manufacturers meet high quality standards."
Shaw wrote that his organization's supply and retail members agree that the industry must continue to follow the strict guidelines set out by the FDA.
"Supplements have an excellent safety record and we appreciate this opportunity to provide more information to the senators," he wrote. "While we appreciate any concerns the senators may have, reopening a closed debate based on distorted facts causes our members concern, as they work to ensure that consumers get the high quality products they expect and deserve."
A spokeswoman with the Council for Responsible Nutrition declined to comment until the organization had responded to the senators' letter. Attempts to reach the American Herbal Products Association for comment were unsuccessful.
U.S. senators call supplement-makers to account
Durbin, Blumenthal send letter to industry trade organizations in response to Tribune story on lax compliance with FDA standards
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