Hatch, McCain reach agreement on dietary supplements

Published March 11, 2010 3:44 pm
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Senators have reached an agreement on more modest dietary supplement safeguards that would make it easier to crackdown on products that could hurt people.

The move comes only a few days after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, stepped away from a tougher bill because of the concerns expressed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is a major supporter of the dietary supplement industry, one of Utah's biggest sectors.

McCain and his co-sponsor Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., announced the agreement in a letter sent to Hatch, R-Utah, and two other supplement supporters, Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

The letter, released Wednesday evening, outlines four areas of "common ground" the senators plan to fold into a bipartisan food safety bill.

The five senators agree to:

» Require all dietary supplement companies to register with the federal government.

» Give the Food and Drug Administration the ability to issue "a mandatory recall order" if there is a reasonable probability a supplement is spiked or could cause serious health problems.

» Push the FDA to more quickly publish guidelines on new dietary ingredients.

» Require the FDA to notify the Drug Enforcement Administration if they find an ingredient contains a steroid.

"We feel strongly that these additional safeguards are necessary to protect those who take dietary supplements and will provide them with the information necessary to make more educated decisions regarding their health," McCain and Dorgan wrote in the letter.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, or USADA, has joined with major sports leagues to push for more restrictions on dietary supplements saying it is too easy for rogue companies to spike bodybuilding products with steroids.

The original McCain-Dorgan bill was modeled on USADA's concerns and would have required supplement makers to provide some proof as to the safety of their products. The companies would also have to hand over any customer complaint to the government.

While it is short of their original proposals, USADA announced their support for the compromise.

"These are needed improvements. The agreement provides much-needed additional consumer protections, without risking access to legal supplements," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said. "This is a battle that has been won for the good guys."

Hatch's main concern was making sure consumers would be able to buy the supplements they want.

"I am gratified that they understand my serious concerns with their bill and are willing to work with us to ensure that nothing will stand in the way of Americans' access to safe dietary supplements," he said.

Hatch worried that McCain's original bill would lead to a pre-market approval process for supplements, which the government now considers a food -- not a drug. Such approval could increase costs for the dietary supplement makers and limit their availability to the public.

mcanham@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">mcanham@sltrib.com

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