The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a leading trade association for the dietary supplement industry, announced what it called “a first, and necessary, step” toward improving transparency in the supplement industry by requiring all CRN members as a condition of membership submit their supplement product labels to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD). The announcement was made following overwhelming approval by CRN’s Board of Directors at its December Board meeting, the association said.
The mandatory requirement applies to those CRN member companies listed as the responsible party on the product label for all dietary supplement products marketed in the U.S.
“This marks the start of a new era for our industry. Our members can no longer allow those companies skirting the laws to tarnish our reputation," said Steve Mister, CRN president and CEO. "This first step toward greater transparency for regulators and researchers is long overdue, and we strongly urge others in the industry to work with us on this and future initiatives that will ultimately build a stronger industry.”
Mister noted that although the ODS DSLD is public, and therefore the information can be accessed by consumers, at this stage consumers are not the intended audience. “But greater consumer accountability is the ultimate goal, and we will get there. Ours is a tale of two industries—companies that follow the law versus those who don’t—and we are starting today to create a clearer divide between those factions,” he said.
Last year, CRN’s members formed a Product Transparency Working Group to address ways the association and the industry could better assist regulators in their efforts to police the industry and protect the public. After evaluating the various options for establishing a more accurate registry of dietary supplements, based on the research of this working group, the CRN Board selected the ODS DSLD as the most appropriate place to start this project.
“The bottom line is we need a central repository for all dietary supplement labels sold in this country, and the ODS label registry is already well-established and with a few tweaks could provide the kind of information that would be helpful for FDA. Given that ODS is currently reevaluating its current contracted database administrator, it was also the right opportunity for us to make suggestions as to how to make the DSLD a more useful and comprehensive tool for regulators,” Mister continued.
CRN recently submitted comments to ODS offering a “wish list” of improvements that could strengthen the government’s database for regulators and also for researchers for whom the database was originally designed. According to CRN, the association would like to see increased allocated resources to allow expanded capacity and quicker processing; establish a process to update labels (and denote products no longer on the market) and respond to manufacturer-requested corrections to errors; develop a unique product identifier system that could better serve a variety of stakeholders, including consumers down the road; and provide FDA with confidential information that would allow it to more efficiently contact manufacturers and packagers.
Although CRN is the first association to mandate submission of product labels to a central database, Mister said he believes it won’t be the only association. “We know that all the associations—and even those companies that are not yet members of an association—are having these kinds of discussions. It makes sense for us to combine our efforts.”
According to the association, CRN intends to continue its ongoing dialogue with FDA, as well as pursuing additional registry solutions that could supplement the ODS DSLD by supplying confidential product information to FDA, if ODS is unable to make improvements that would result in a more robust database for regulators.
“We know some will say this first step isn’t enough, but to those critics we say, ‘today we are setting in place a critical cornerstone that begins to identify the scope of the dietary supplement industry, and ultimately makes it easier to navigate,’” the association concluded.
For more information, visit www.crnusa.org.