UPDATE: McCain’s Dietary Supplement Bill Has New Life

Written by Ann Shibler on April 29 2010.

Reports now show that a supposed compromise has been reached between the dietary supplement industry and McCain. You really didn’t think the worst measures of the bill, or even the mildest measures of the bill, were going to go away, did you? The results of this compromise are now apparently a part of a manager’s amendment to be introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), and inserted into the major food safety bill under consideration, S. 510, currently having the finishing touches put on it before hitting the Senate floor for debate.

McCain’s bill would have had supplement manufacturers reporting to the FDA the smallest adverse reactions to their products and given the FDA complete recall authority on the slightest whim. With interest we read Congressional Quarterly’s one small detail of the new manager’s amendment that incorporates McCain’s supplement legislation into the food safety bill: “Steven M. Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said the provisions would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue long-delayed guidance on acceptable supplement ingredients and report to the Drug Enforcement Administration when it rejects new supplements that contain synthetic anabolic steroids.”

And this is somehow acceptable to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade organization representing supplement manufacturers and companies like Avon and Bayer, because “the industry is satisfied with the narrower language”? Ditto for the Natural Products Association whose executive director John F. Gay said, “This is a much more targeted focus.” It seems as though these trade organizations do not object in principle then, only to the matter of degree of intensity or focus of the regulations.

Anyone in their right mind should be concerned about an FDA, USDA, EPA and DEA combo that is sure to be a bureaucratic nightmare and is about to be launched against this country’s already safe food supply and well-functioning production market.

While it’s true we have not seen nor read the manager’s amendment because it hasn’t been made public, it would be wise to proceed with caution. Just from past experience we should know that Specter’s manager’s amendment is likely to be laden with plenty of supplement-limiting, highly intrusive regulatory measures that will mimic McCain’s original ideas.

What a clever, well-thought out political ploy. It helps John McCain save face and even helps him claim somewhat of a victory, sees the new amendment painted in acceptable colors by supposedly interested and affected industry spokesmen, and still accomplishes the dastardly deed of putting some aspects of the natural food supplement and vitamin industry under FDA regulation. 

Of course, S. 510 has absolutely nothing to recommend it to freedom-loving, natural food choice advocates and producers, or average sellers and consumers. Similar to H.R. 2749  and H.R. 875 it would expand the FDA’s control over the right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, serve or eat every food under the sun or morsel that one chooses to put into one’s mouth. The government would be in charge of managing and controlling every aspect of agriculture and food, from seeds to chemicals to animals and their waste; from producers to sellers to consumers, nothing would be safe from their intrusive grasp through their licensing, tracking, and fee-laden system. It would be a jungle of regulatory schemes and rules that would choke average and smaller players in the food marketplace right out of existence, leaving only the multi-national mega-corporate entities left to supply Americans with food, or facsimiles thereof.

Many food trade and farm organizations are in favor of S. 510; they have been bewitched and beguiled into thinking that food safety would be advanced if control would just be given over to the government. Here’s one example of the appeal for passage found on a Supermarket News website entitled “Rebuilding Safety”  which uses undocumented and questionable stats based on “estimates”:

The statistics are grim. Each year in the U.S., food borne illness affects 76 million people, leading to 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates.

But as most consumers already know, most of the food-borne illness resulted from ingesting products and produce from foreign countries, not from food produced, sold, and purchased locally.

With all this in mind it would behoove those of us who are concerned about the expansion of the federal government’s regulatory and surveillance schemes into our lives via our dinner plates to make clear to our representatives that we categorically reject a central food  bureaucracy that would harmonize “safety” standards according to global standards and that would eliminate through excessive regulations and record-keeping requirements locally grown food products and choices.

Akin to the healthcare takeover, S. 510 would facilitate a food takeover.

Contact your senators and representatives and let them know exactly how you feel about yet another takeover in an area which should be, and according to the limits of the Constitution always has been, a matter of personal choice and individual responsibility.

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