Dietary Supplements & DSHEA
The Dietary Supplement
Health and Education Act of 1994

Are you one of those Americans who believes that you are terribly over regulated by your government? Well, if so, I agree with you, in some areas anyway. But do you know that there are products sold for human consumption in the U.S. that are practically unregulated by any government agency whatsoever?

If you don't know that, you are like the vast majority of Americans who has never heard about DSHEA (pronounced duh' shay), the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, passed by Congress and signed into law by Clinton after the most intense lobbying effort since the Vietnam War. DSHEA was sponsored by Orrin Hatch, the senator from Utah, the state that is home to a great many of the supplement companies.

The lobbying was, of course, conducted by the dietary supplement industry. Speak to people who frequent health food stores. They will remember the campaign. They were told that if DSHEA wasn't passed they would need a prescription from an M.D. to get vitamin C. It wasn't true, but many believed the hype and contacted their elected representatives who passed DSHEA.

What the general public and quite possibly even most of the people who contacted their representatives never realized was that the law gave the supplement industry license to legally sell almost anything that they want as long as they don't put drug claims on the label. They can and do put those claims in books, magazines and pamphlets displayed, sold or given away someplace else in the same store as well as all over the Internet and in ads on TV and in the mainstream print media.

Even under DSHEA all supplement claims have to be true. There would probably be rioting in the streets if Congress tried to revoke our fraud in advertising laws. However, neither federal nor state agencies have the resources to enforce these laws. When I attempted to file a complaint with FTC, the federal agency responsible for enforcing fraud in advertising laws nationally, they sent me a brochure telling me how to get other brochures.

It took screaming at the aides to a senator to get the number of a real person at FTC. She apologized but said that they only have 30 people at the agency to handle fraud in advertising in the entire U.S. The supplement companies as well as all the politicians who sponsored and voted for DSHEA all know this. It is the guy in the street who doesn't.

Before DSHEA went into effect, anyone who wanted to sell a product for human consumption had to first prove to FDA that it was safe. After DSHEA, it became up to the agency to discover and prove that a particular product sold as a "dietary supplement" had injured or killed a particular person, possibly you, before they could stop its sale.

Do you realize how difficult that is to do? Remember cigarettes? Haven't you noticed the executives from the tobacco industry on T.V. who still claim that there is no proof that smoking causes lung cancer?

My goal is to either have DSHEA repealed or else to make sure that everyone living in or visiting the U.S. knows that it exists. I want them to realize that when they buy something that says "dietary supplement" on the label, they have no guarantee of the safety or efficacy of the product. Neither can they be sure of the purity or potency of the ingredients that it is purported to contain.

In fact the substance listed on the label may not even be in the bottle. (URL to be posted) When you buy a dietary supplement you are putting all your faith in the manufacturer who may or may not know what he is doing and who may or may not be honest and reputable. You are buying an unregulated product.

FDA Guide to Dietary Supplements
FDA Consumer Advice
"Quackwatch Dietary Supplements"

The President's Committee

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