June 23, 2003
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

New York Times Article on Supplement Research Highlights Need for Ortiz Bill
Assemblyman Ortiz legislation would require companies' research to back up claims

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy welcomed the New York Times investigation of the adequacy of research for dietary supplements and urged support for his bill (A.2762) to require that marketers of dietary supplements be able to substantiate the claims for their products, and provide a warning statement and contact information for the FDA if the product claim is not approved by the FDA. Ortiz also sponsored a resolution passed by the Assembly asking the federal government to better regulate dietary supplements and co-sponsored the new law that bans the sale of supplements containing ephedra in New York State.

In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA), which allowed the sale of supplements without pre-market reviews and permitted health claims on labels with 30 day's notice to the FDA. The burden is on the FDA to prove a dietary supplement is unsafe or ineffective as opposed to drugs that require pre-market safety reviews and lengthy research studies to prove they work.

According to Ortiz, "Just because a supplement may be derived from a natural source, does not mean it is somehow safer or needs less regulatory oversight. That is why we banned ephedra - because the federal government seems unable to do its job. Most supplements are not dangerous, but many may not be effective despite their claims. Consumers may believe that the claims for dietary supplements are backed by the same type of research as drugs and that the FDA has investigated them. Those assumptions could lead to health risks if a person chose an ineffective supplement over an effective medical treatment or waste money if a consumer chose a product that had no chance of successfully fulfilling its claims. The supplement makers need to do their part and limit their claims to those supported by legitimate research."

Ortiz's Task Force sponsored a hearing in 2001 to inform the Legislature about government regulation of the safety, effectiveness, labeling, and health claims of dietary supplements. There is much confusion and controversy over the safety of certain supplements, their effectiveness, the scientific basis for health or medical claims, the FDA's ability to oversee labeling prior to product marketing and general quality parameters of supplements, such as purity and strength. It is the focus of contentious debate whether dietary supplements should be treated as prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs, foods, or medical food.

In response to these concerns, Assemblyman Ortiz introduced three bills to regulate supplements in New York State. In addition to A.2762, he introduced A.2799, which prohibits coaches and other school employees from selling or promoting the use of dietary supplements and requires schools to distribute warnings to students about risks from certain supplements. The third, A.2700, would classify dietary supplements that function similar to anabolic steroids as controlled substances.

"Our government agencies need the legal authority and the resources to properly oversee the safety and quality of supplements and prevent fraud and abuse in the supplement marketplace. In the absence of adequate federal oversight and regulation these bills would let New Yorkers make more informed choices and would protect children, who are part of a dangerous experiment of increased use of supplements for sports, weight loss, energy, and appearance," said Ortiz.

New York State Assembly
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