Regulations, reorganization, and the road ahead for dietary supplements and natural products

AHPA's Michael McGuffin for NutraIngredients USA | December 12, 2023

As 2023 comes to a close, so too does another year of progress and innovation in the dietary supplement and natural product industries that the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) proudly serves. The growth of newer product categories – such as fungi-based products and probiotic sodas – both captures and demonstrates the heightened level of consumer interest in supporting their personal health and wellness with dietary supplements and functional foods.

Even so, while product variety and availability today may look substantially different than it did in years past, a look back on AHPA's efforts in 2023 to support the evolving industry through engagement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evokes feelings of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Modernizing labeling regulations

AHPA has increasingly called for regulations governing dietary supplements and natural products to be modernized to better reflect the current market for these products. Throughout 2023, AHPA submitted comments to FDA draft guidances toward that effort, requesting revisions in support of responsible industry and well-informed consumers.

Early this year, AHPA submitted comments to FDA's proposed rule updating the regulation governing “healthy” claims for food products, including dietary supplements. Under current regulations, use of the term “healthy” is considered an implied nutrient content claim in the labeling of food. Dietary supplements are intended to support a healthy diet and lifestyle, and, per current dietary guidelines, a healthy diet can include herbs and herbal products. Therefore, AHPA is advocating for dietary supplements, unsweetened coffees and teas, and herbs and spices to be able to bear “healthy” claims, among other requests made in our comments that support use of the term “healthy” in ways that will help consumers make beneficial diet choices.

In September, as a continuation of our work on labeling regulation, AHPA submitted comments to FDA's draft guidance that recommended standards for the use of dietary guidance statements in food labeling. Dietary guidance statements are voluntary statements that “represent or suggest that a food or a food group may contribute to or help maintain a nutritious dietary pattern.” Per the draft guidance, dietary guidance statements are not to be used on dietary supplements. However, similar to our position regarding “healthy” claims, AHPA contends that dietary supplements should be able to bear dietary guidance statements. Consumers should have every opportunity to learn about the role that these products play in a healthy and nutritious diet.

Though there have been no further regulatory developments on the use of “healthy” claims and dietary guidance statements, AHPA will continue to closely follow FDA's positions on nutrition labeling and fight for manufacturers and marketers of dietary supplements and natural products to be able to share truthful and not misleading information with the public. Meanwhile, in addition to commenting on draft guidances, AHPA has also taken other, proactive approaches to seek action from FDA on matters impacting the industry.




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