AAFCO`s Wake-Up Call

The banning of all supplements in Texas with unapproved ingredients as “adulterated” last year shocked both the industry and consumers. Some manufacturers seem paranoid about the intent of regulatory bodies enforcing existing safeguards. This is understandable to a point, especially for herbal alternatives, which have been unjustly maligned and persecuted by some big-money pharmaceutical companies in areas around the globe.

The fact is that some herbal approaches are just as effective as drugs and may be safer. Many nutritional supplements are also extremely helpful — but some are not. A manufacturer simply claiming a product is safe and effective doesn’t make it so.

We disagree that the industry needs no regulation or that a group of private manufacturers should be allowed to proclaim themselves as experts and set industry standards, particularly when their actions in the recent past have helped draw the attention of AAFCO/FDA to the existing violations.

While AAFCO claims to be focusing on horses because it is a smaller market to tackle, we suspect that complaints companies have lodged with the FDA about competitor products were also an impetus. We’ve been told the FDA is so busy that things only get done if someone raises enough stink about it. It seems supplement manufacturers have shot themselves in the foot. Instead of squabbling over market shares, manufacturers should ensure there even is a market.

As we see it, the FDA and the states are not trying to take away our rights to botanical and nutritional supplements. Their primary concern is safety. It is not appropriate to allow the industry to police itself. Supplement ingredients should be required to meet the same requirements for safety and quality as those in a feed bag.

“Product usefulness,” however, is a tougher question. Companies can’t be allowed to make “improved performance” claims for a product without evidence. Herbals shouldn’t be blatantly marketed for the treatment of disease without research to back them up.

But how much evidence should be required, and who is going to pay for the research’ Does consumer choice mean that owners should have the option of trying a product even if it isn’t backed up with research’ There are no easy answers.

Manufacturers must accept that requirements already exist for safety data, quality control and enforced limitations on claims that can be made. Only when products are brought into compliance with existing laws will any headway be made.

’Til Next Month,

-Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD

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