Dietary supplement manufacturers, sales channels must remain open during COVID-19 shutdowns, stakeholders say

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images

Related tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, Dietary supplement industry

Dietary supplement manufacturers and the natural channel stores that sell the products play an important role in supporting consumers health during this challenging time and should be counted as ‘essential’ businesses, stakeholders say.

The trade associations that represent the industry were unanimous in supporting the notion that dietary supplement firms and their sales channels should remain open in the case of mandatory ‘shelter in place’ directives.  Most of these directives, which so far have been promulgated on the state and local levels, stipulate that most businesses should close save for those deemed essential. 

Those would include gas stations, grocery stores and health care facilities. In some places where schools have closed, day care facilities remain open.  And the supply chain activities for those businesses would continue to operate.

But what about the companies that manufacture and sell dietary supplements?  For the moment most dietary supplement companies report that they are selling as much product as they can manufacture, especially any products that have a relation to immunity support.  If mandatory, would officials insist these businesses have to go on hiatus?

Associations advocate strongly for ‘essential’ nature of industry

Industry stakeholders have strongly opposed such a move. Both the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the National Products Association have issued statements support the need for the dietary supplement industry supply chain and sales channels to remain open.

“On an ordinary day, these products play an important role for the health and well-being of consumers, and it is critical that we ensure continued consumer access to these products during this public health pandemic,”​ says Steve Mister, president & CEO, CRN. “This is not the time to jeopardize consumer access to these products. Simply put, they matter more than ever right now.”

“We have a responsibility to stay open and provide essential services, and that is exactly what we are going to do.  Health-food stores that provide nutritional supplements and other health and wellness products will remain open at the discretion of business owners,”​ said Daniel Fabricant, PhD, President and CEO of NPA.

CRN said recent reports on sales show that consumers are aggressively seeking specific supplements that can support their health.  Manufacturers have reported being out of stock on certain items are working to increase production.  That has spread to analytical labs, which are starting to reach capacity on the amount of new samples they can process to aid this increase in production volume.

CRN jointed the American Herbal Products Association, the United Natural Products Alliance and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association in signing on to a letter that was sent to all 50 state governors​.  The letter advocated that the definition of ‘health care facilities’ in any such mandatory orders should be modified to include, “Companies and institutions involved in the research and development, manufacture, distribution, warehousing, and supplying of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology therapies, consumer health products, medical devices, diagnostics, equipment and services.”

“The starting point should be an assumption that we are included,” ​said Michael McGuffin, president of AHPA.  “This notion that health food stores are going to be shut down—they’re not.”

San Francisco provides model

McGuffin said one of the first such shelter in place orders that was put in place several days ago in the San Francisco Bay area could serve as a model for language to be used in other such orders.  The order defines essential businesses in the food realm as: “Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.”

“Personal care products, that’s us,” McGuffin said.

He said the order’s language was also laudable in that it specified that the supply chains of goods and services to keep the front line sales channels operating was also covered.

“It’s an excellent document,” he said.

FBIA letter to officials

AHPA and CRN joined a long list of industry associations in signing on to a letter addressed to federal state and local officials ​sent out under the aegis of the Food and Beverage Importers Association that makes similar requests, calling for “a federal exemption from gathering bans and curfew be granted for human, animal and pet food manufacturing facilities, as well as facilities that produce essential consumer goods critical to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, so that we can ensure the continued supply of food, essential items, while also ensuring worker safety.”

Separate NPA portal

NPA has set up its own, separate advocacy portal​ where interested parties can add their name to a list of those calling on officials to keep these businesses open.

Related topics: Regulation & Policy, Supplements

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