Dear AHPA Members,
It is my heartfelt honor to address you today on the 20th anniversary of the date I began my role as President of the American Herbal Products Association.
We have accomplished so much together since 1999! To begin with, the organization has nearly doubled in size to now include almost 400 members. We have also reorganized the AHPA Board of Trustees to better represent the membership by increasing the number of trustees by nearly 40 percent. In addition, several of our most active committees have been chartered during my tenure, including the Sports Nutrition, Cannabis, Ayurvedic Products, Chinese Herbal Products, Analytical Labs, International, and Tea & Infusion Products Committees.
We have also made AHPA’s work more relevant to the herb industry by issuing second editions of Herbs of Commerce (in 2000) and the Botanical Safety Handbook (in 2013), and our creation of the AHPA NDI Database in 2005 extended our relevance beyond just botanical ingredients. Also, consistent with AHPA’s long-standing attention to self-regulatory initiatives, the AHPA board has adopted nearly 30 trade requirements or guidance policies since 1999, all with input from the expertise represented by AHPA’s diverse membership.
Our accomplishments extend far beyond our internal structure and efforts though, and while I can’t list 20 years of work in this short letter I’ll provide here a few examples. If you sell dietary supplements today that are labeled as “organic” in compliance with USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), you will hopefully recall that AHPA was the only trade association that pushed back – and ultimately won – when NOP took the position in 2005 that the USDA organic seal should be reserved only for conventional foods and be forbidden for supplement brands. You may also remember that it was AHPA that took the lead in getting our industry aligned to support establishment of a new law in 2006 to require submission to FDA of serious adverse event reports associated with a supplement, so we can now take full responsibility for the safety of the products we sell, while we can also show that the supplement category is among the safest classes of goods under FDA’s jurisdiction.
More recently, the voluminous comments (over 400 pages!) submitted by AHPA to the various regulations proposed to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act certainly affected this rulemaking. Of quite significant interest to many companies today, our active participation in the ongoing discussion of the best regulatory framework for the emerging market for hemp and CBD supplements is the only voice informed by nearly 40 years’ experience with the regulation of herbal products and also by a decade of engagement with this controversial herb.
Throughout the entire 20 years of my time here, AHPA’s Mission has been unchanged – “To promote the responsible commerce of herbal products.” We do this to ensure that consumers continue to enjoy informed access to a wide variety of herbal goods. I often tell my friends that my job is to work not only for the herb industry but also for them, as individuals who demand access to herbs in their personal health care choices, to make sure these choices are protected and preserved.
I get great satisfaction from working on behalf of this industry, and I had a conversation recently that I’d like to share with you that makes this point. In describing to a new acquaintance my job as AHPA’s president and my longevity in the herb trade dating back to 1974, his response was, “Wow – you really love your job and you’re doing exactly the work you want to be doing!” I agreed with him, and then on reflection acknowledged that one of the great benefits of my position in AHPA is that I am representing so many companies owned and run by people who also love their jobs and their work. Perhaps there are other business sectors where such conditions exist, but certainly we are all fortunate to be part of this herbal trade, doing what we want while doing good for the health of our friends and neighbors.
As I have told the AHPA Board of Trustees – “I’m 68 years old and I can only do this another 10 or 20 years.” I look forward to continuing to work for you and with you, individually and as a community, for many years to come.