The President's Committee on Dietary Supplement Labels (CDSL)

In the fall of 1996 a friend of mine had just gotten a computer and connected to the Internet. While playing with it, I somehow found the Federal Register and searched under "dietary supplements." To my astonishment I discovered an announcement about a meeting that the CDSL had scheduled in Washington, D.C. that October. That was the first I had ever heard about the committee.

I phoned a lawyer at Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C. based public interest group, who had given me lots of free advice and asked why he hadn't told me about the committee. He apologized and said it had never occurred to him.

The majority of the appointed committee members where from the supplement industry. People in public interest groups and in public health had presented written and oral testimony, but no one expected to be listened to.

I contacted the committee which was supervised by three Ph.Ds., food scientists, from the federal agency of Health and Human Services (HHS). When I said that I wanted to give oral testimony, they said it was too late to do that. They were still accepting written testimony, though. I sent a very thick file documenting the colloidal silver scam and informed them in no uncertain terms that I believed that failing to let me give oral testimony was a violation of my constitutional rights.

I also contacted the Vermont chapter of the ACLU. The woman who took my call said I had a problem, but it wasn't their problem. She sounded as if she thought I had a lot of nerve asking for time from their volunteer attorneys.

Meanwhile, the nightly TV news was following a case in Burlington in which the Union was representing a high school student who had been told that he could not wear a dress to school. Other students rallied round to demonstrate on his behalf. Of course, he could wear his dress anywhere else that he wanted to in Vermont and in the nation. It seemed to me like a trivialization of my civil rights.

The ACLU would help someone who wanted to break a school rule but not someone whose own government refused to let her present testimony about a law affecting the health and well-being of every man, woman and child in the nation, a law that almost no one knew about because it had been passed behind closed doors.

I told the CDSL that I was coming to their meeting and that I wanted to speak. I had friends print a t-shirt for me with Casper the Ghost on the front and the words, "Ask me why I'm gray." The back had a skull and crossbones and said, "Colloidal silver is a fraud."

I flew from Burlington to Washington, changing flights in NY wearing my shirt and carrying sheets of paper containing an article that I had written about DSHEA and the eighty year old colloidal silver scam which I gave to everyone who questioned me. I had reserved a room at the hotel where the meeting was being held so that they could not throw me out.

The next morning as I was sitting in the hall wearing my shirt waiting for the meeting to begin, Dr. Kenneth Fisher, the moderator from HHS, came over and asked if he could speak with me outside. I told him that I wanted the committee members to look me in the face and realize that this was not business as usual.

They were dealing with the health and well-being of every man, woman and child in America. They were dealing with human beings, real people. He said they had agreed to note my presence at the meeting in the record and that they would convene a subcommittee in the afternoon to meet with me and hear what I had to say. I said that would be fine.

When I was in the elevator being escorted up to the room that the subcommittee would meet in, I asked the committee member and the doctor from HHS who accompanied me what had gotten their attention, my face or my shirt. They asked what my shirt said. They hadn't noticed it.

Annette Dickinson, Ph.D., from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a misnomer if ever there was one, was one of the committee members who sat in to hear what I had to say. In spite of this and all the written documentation I presented showing that silver is at best useless and at worst harmful, when FDA issued the proposed rule on silver drugs, CRN, submitted a letter explicitly requesting that all regulations regarding silver preparations exempt products sold as dietary supplements and only apply to those sold as drugs. (see letter)

If CRN had presented evidence showing that the FDA and I were wrong regarding silver, I would not object, but for them to request the legal right to market it as a "dietary supplement" without any proof whatsoever that it is beneficial for anything other than making money for their members and in spite of all the evidence indicating that it is dangerous leads me to conclude that the dietary supplement industry is as bad as the tobacco industry ever was.

And just like the tobacco industry in its heyday, it pretty much has the license to do most anything that it wants to.

My greatest fear is that there may be a product sold as a health aid in a store near you that will turn out to be as lethal as cigarettes and that by the time we find out, it will be too late to reverse the harm caused to a large number of people.

Dietary Supplements & DSHEA | Comments on Committee

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