Opinion

Natural Products Industry Must Step Up

The last decade has seen an explosion in the global demand for high-quality and safe natural products, including nutritional supplements, personal care, and home care products.    People around the world are more health conscious and think more about the products they are putting into and on their bodies and bringing into their homes.  An ever-increasing number of consumers don’t want petroleum by-products in their cosmetics, nor do they want artificial ingredients or flavors in their foods.

Aptly named the “good food” industry, this now multi-billion-dollar segment of the economy has at times been slow to engage lawmakers inside the beltway. An in depth report in Politico last year looked into the issue and found that companies in this growing sector are, for the most part, sitting on the sidelines while their counter parts in “big food” spend billions on lobbying and influence.

The situation is alarming as it is dangerous.  Consider the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to even define what “natural” means, leaving consumers confused at times.  But it’s also a clear signal that there are opportunities for meaningful engagement with the federal government.  The Natural Products Association (NPA), the nations largest and oldest association dedicated to solely to the natural products industry, has been on the front lines in Congress making the case for natural products.  And we are hard at work on the important issues to our membership and the American people:  ensuring continued access to the natural products they depend on and use every day.

Like any industry that’s regulated by Washington, the natural products industry spends significant resources complying with federal regulations.  According to a recent analysis conducted by NPA, the industry spends close to $1 billion each year to stay in line with federal regulations.  For an industry that’s investing that much money, it cannot afford to forgo a regular dialogue with the very people that are overseeing it.

The natural products industry is also a strong driver of economic growth in almost every Congressional district and state in the country.  Sales in the supplement industry totaled more than $13 billion in 2015 and supported thousands of jobs across the country.

The Natural Products Association understands the importance of engaging policy makers inside the beltway, and that’s why our organization was here in Washington last week with more than 100 members from 20 different states.  NPA was also instrumental in organizing a briefing for lawmakers in the Congressional Caucus on Dietary Supplements.

NPA has worked throughout the year on issues, including: the Family and Retirement Health Investment Act, which would allow FSA and HSA dollars to be spent on nutritional supplements and other natural products;  The Free Speech About Science Act and the Personal Care Product Oversight Act, which requires cosmetics companies to register their facilities with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and to submit to the FDA cosmetic ingredient statements that include the amounts of a cosmetic’s ingredients.  And on the tax policy side, NPA began 2016 by becoming a member of the Internet Freedom Tax Act (IFTA) Coalition, which seeks to enact a permanent ban on the taxation of internet commerce.

NPA was also actively involved in supporting the elevation of the Division of Dietary Supplement at FDA to an Office, and looks forward to continuing to work with FDA and other regulatory officials to deliver quality products for the millions of people in the U.S.  NPA will also be focused on developing a working relationship with the newly confirmed Commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf.

Our voice is getting stronger because our membership is growing as consumers demand more natural products.  For the past 80 years, the Natural Products Association and its members have been the go-to sources for advocacy, information, training, networking and communications and we will continue to lead and represent the industry in Washington.

Dr. Dan Fabricant is CEO and Executive Director of the Natural Products Association.

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