It is widely understood that the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act has created a wide open and lucrative market for herbal remedies and dietary supplements that don’t have to pass even minimal standards of evidence that they are safe or effective. The act was introduced by Tom Harkin and Orrin Hatch, apparently true believers in CAM and certainly recipients of a great deal of campaign money from the supplement industry. Though some have hoped the new respect paid to objective science by the current administration might lead to reconsideration of this disastrous act, it hasn’t seemed very likely. But there is at least a glimmer of hope.
A report prepared by the General Accounting Office (GAO) evaluating the FDA’s ability to safeguard the public from untested dietary supplements and has concluded that the agency should “request additional authority to oversee dietary supplements, issue guidance on new dietary ingredients, and take steps to improve consumer understanding of dietary supplements.” The report further states that “without a clear understanding of the safety, efficacy, and labeling of dietary supplements, consumers may be exposed to greater risks.” and adds that the “FDA generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations.
Undoubtedly, such reports are generated and molder unheeded in the halls of government all the time. But official recognition from outside the FDA that the current law is inadequate to protect consumers is welcome, and hopefully a sign of things to come.