Adel Villalobos and Kyle Turk | State May Restrict Supplements

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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As we turn the corner on the pandemic, millions of Californians are looking to nutritional supplements to support their health and immune systems. That is why we are opposed to legislation that is being considered in the California Legislature that would restrict access to nutritional supplements, harm local retailers and do nothing to actually support public health.  

Former Congressional Black Caucus leader and longtime representative from New York Ed Towns said it best: “if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of proper nutrition as a cornerstone of a ‘health first’ strategy.”

Unfortunately, as the former congressman acknowledges, almost 95% of adults and 98% of teens do not get enough vitamin D. This is even more alarming considering mounting evidence suggests vitamin D deficiency could lead to more severe COVID-19 cases.  

Nutritionists are also becoming increasingly alarmed by poor nutrition among preteen and teen girls, warning that poor diets could lead to long-term health problems. This is why vitamin and mineral supplementation is so crucial. When proper dieting and nutrition fail to meet the daily recommended intake, nutritional supplements help bridge nutrient gaps.  

Considering the alarm bells many health experts are raising over poor nutrition, we are especially concerned that lawmakers in California are considering placing restrictions on access to nutritional supplements.   

The legislation would put popular nutritional supplements like whey protein powder behind lock and key in California’s retail stores and impose penalties for selling these products to anyone under the age of 18 that are stricter than those for selling tobacco and alcohol products to children. The legislation also targets lipotropics, which are found in healthy and recommended foods, including lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey and fish, thermogens, which are found in products containing caffeine, and muscle-building supplements such as amino acids and vitamin D.  

The bill’s sponsors claim that the legislation is necessary because of an association between dietary supplements and eating disorders, yet no such association has been proven by a review of the most authoritative publicly available data.  

But beyond the absurdity of treating healthy and nutritional ingredients like a public enemy, there is a broader economic impact to consider. In California, the natural products industry supports more than 50,000 jobs, including mom-and-pop store owners who supply their communities with nutritional products. Main Street has been crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But it wouldn’t just be supplement stores that would be impacted. Groceries and restaurants would also potentially become victims, which is why we think there are significant legal challenges for this bill as well. 

We support efforts to stop illegal drugs masquerading as natural products being sold to consumers. The federal government has vast enforcement powers and has a long track record of punishing criminals who break the law. We support vigorous enforcement of the law to protect consumers. Still, this legislation will not accomplish that and will work against existing law that is well-designed to protect consumers. 

In the wake of quarantines, shuttered gyms, and a general lack of physical activity for the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that the cornerstone of good health is a proper diet and regular exercise. Millions of Americans have opted to take their health and wellness into their own hands, and this includes for many an emphasis on healthy eating and using nutritional supplements when appropriate. It’s time more people embrace the necessity for nutritional supplements and stop policies that do exactly the opposite. 

We urge the California Legislature to oppose Assembly Bill 1341.   

Adel Villalobos
CEO & founder, Lief Labs, Valencia  

Kyle Turk, director of government affairs,
Natural Products Association 

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