Thursday, October 12, 2017 by Rhonda Johansson
Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2018. In his official announcement posted on his Facebook page, he wrote, “After long consultation with my family and prayerful consideration, I have decided I will not be a candidate for any office in 2018…I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career.” Rep. Chaffetz has long been a noted champion for natural supplements and his decision to transition to private life has left a gaping hole in Congress.
Mike Green, senior vice president of government affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition said in an interview with NutraIngredients-USA.com that, “[Chaffetz] really did things the right way…He has been a partner in the lot of the work [sic] we have done on Capitol Hill. We will miss [him].”
In the same article, President of the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), Loren Israelson said, “Rep. Chaffetz’s decision reminds us how critically important it is for all industry members to be politically active and engaged to strengthen existing and develop new relationships with key members of Congress. Our message, that safe, regulated dietary supplement products promote health and well-being and have an important role to play in helping solve the ongoing healthcare crisis in our country, is more important than ever.”
Chaffetz announcement was not, however, entirely unexpected. In a critical piece on NYTimes.com, it was noted that Chaffetz had already “sent private signals in recent weeks. Mr. Chaffetz recently told some contributors that he was considering quitting to pursue a television contract.” The article further claimed that Chaffetz had consistently displayed an “opportunistic streak, often rushing toward television cameras with an eager smile.”
Rep. Chaffetz was quick to point out that his decision to not seek re-election was not based on any political or health concern.
“Let me be clear that I have no ulterior motives. I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins. I have the full support of Speaker Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee,” he said.
The challenges presented by this decision adds uncertainty to an already unstable environment on Capitol Hill. Despite Chaffetz’s announcement in April, Green has said that finding and selecting a replacement for the congressman will take several months at the least. “It’s a long, involved process,” Green was noted in saying in NewHope.com. “All the different trade associations will weigh in. Other members will weigh in.”
The supplements industry has taken quite a beatings in the last few years. Emboldened by the various negative headlines spread by mainstream media, congressmen such as Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have proposed several pieces of legislation that would strictly regulate requirements for supplement companies. (Related: Durbin ‘Dietary Supplement Labeling Act’ to reward FDA for failures and punish responsible supplement producers.)
Even with the Trump administration generally supporting natural alternatives, allies are unsure how long this will last or how strong this “support” is. The turbulence is strengthened with the potential retirement of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in 2019. Senator Hatch played a key role in the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). Senator Hatch introduced DSHEA along with Iowan democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who retired in 2015.
Every bill has its critics, and the DSHEA is no exception. The FDA is, well, not highly critical of the Act, but extremely wary about its provisions. In an official blog post on the FDA’s website, Dr. Stephen Ostroff said that an unintended consequence of the passage of the DSHEA was the explosive growth of dietary supplements, which, according to him “outpace[s] FDA’s resources to regulate this industry.”
“Ultimately, when proper quality control and record keeping procedures are not followed across the supply chain, it can be difficult to guarantee what ingredients in what amounts are in the final product and whether the ingredients are safe or even qualify as dietary supplements. Under DSHEA, FDA does not have the authority to approve dietary supplements before they are marketed to consumers.”
It is unclear what the future holds, but it can only be hoped that more supporters of the supplements industry be found.
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