Dr. Pieter Cohen’s recent opinion piece demonstrates how even the best-intentioned can misunderstand regulatory complexities regarding dietary supplements (“The ‘natural’ pill myth,” Op-ed, May 13). Despite his call for a new law, the solution is for the Food and Drug Administration to enforce the laws that already exist with transparency, consistency, rationality, and real consequences for violators.
Cohen’s op-ed addresses a particular ingredient found in a small percentage of supplements. My point is not to defend that ingredient, but rather to clarify that if the FDA determines that it is not safe or is not a legal dietary supplement, then the agency already has ample authority to remove it from the market, to seize adulterated products, to demand a recall, and to bring civil or criminal actions if warranted.
Cohen states that the FDA’s current viewpoint permits synthetically produced versions of botanical extracts in dietary supplements. In fact, the industry is at odds with the FDA on this issue. However, if Cohen’s view prevails, synthetically produced botanical ingredients that are indistinguishable from their “natural” counterparts, such as resveratrol and lutein, could become illegal despite being more environmentally sustainable, less subject to environmental contaminants, and more affordable. We, and millions of consumers, hope that is not his intent.
The council is a national trade association for the dietary supplement industry.