This summer, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reintroduced the infamous Dietary Supplement Labeling Act, after being previously defeated in a landslide 2011 vote. The bill aims to confer new powers on FDA, by allowing the agency to approve or reject supplements before their introduction—basically the same procedure currently applied to prescription drugs. Proponents say the legislation will help curb crooked supplement manufacturers that intentionally mislabel products or obscure the inclusion of dangerous additives. The fact is, this is a classic example of absurd over-regulation.
Under existing law, FDA already oversees finished dietary supplements and ingredients. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) already requires supplement manufacturers to ensure the safety of their products, and allows FDA to take legal action against violators. The agency can and does take such actions when needed.
Under Durbin's proposal, supplement makers would be required to submit all products to FDA for pre-approval prior to marketing or distributing any product, and the agency would have near-complete discretion to approve or deny (ban) any dietary supplement. FDA has no current authority for such a pre-approval process, and no funding or personnel with which to do it. Does this really seem like the best possible use of limited FDA resources.