Trade groups ask retailers not to stock products making coronavirus claims

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags COVID-19 coronavirus disease claims regulations Regulation

A coalition of dietary supplement industry trade associations have come out in support of FDA actions against fraudulent coronavirus treatment claims and have urged retailers to not stock products with such claims on their labels.

In a joint press release issued yesterday the associations “commended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for taking action to protect consumers by calling out marketers who make illegal and unsubstantiated drug claims related to COVID-19.”

The four trade associations that signed on the release are the American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the United Natural Products Alliance.  The four trade associations have had a practice for a number of years of meeting monthly to discuss industry-wide issues.

CRN: trade groups’ patience is at an end

Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, said yesterday’s action follows a warning the coalition put out to warn the marketplace about illegal COVID-19 treatment claims.

“We put out that statement at the end of February. That was aimed more at consumers, telling them to avoid those products.  Even though we had issued that statement, we saw that FDA has continued to put out warning letters to companies making these claims.  We wanted to put another stake in the ground from our standpoint to remind the press and the rest of the industry that the trade associations have no patience with this,” ​Mister told NutraIngredients-USA.

The current statement stresses that the associations “support the responsible sale and use of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other dietary supplements that provide many positive benefits promoting better health and wellness. As we face the unprecedented threat of this global pandemic, illegal and unsubstantiated drug claims misdirect consumers toward ineffective products, divert them from seeking critical medical care, and endanger the public health. “

The statement notes that while there are ingredients that have proven immune boosting properties, none has been shown to have specific effects with regard to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  And even if evidence for such an ingredient existed, the marketer of a dietary supplement would be specifically prevented by DSHEA from making such a claim.

Trade groups: retailers could act as gate keepers

The statement urges retailers to be proactive about the existence of products making such claims in the marketplace.   The statement includes the following four point advisory:

  • Marketers and retailers of dietary supplements should refuse to stock or sell any supplements that are presented as treating, curing or preventing COVID-19.  
  • Marketers and retailers should refrain from promoting any dietary supplement as a cure, treatment or prevention for COVID-19. 
  • Consumers should avoid any product that is claiming to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19 and report such products to the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Anyone who believes they may have COVID-19 or may have come in contact with the novel coronavirus should contact a healthcare professional immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on the coronavirus ​disease and the proper actions to take if you suspect you are ill. 

Just don’t say it

For companies marketing legitimate immune health ingredients, Mister said CRN has the following advice:

“We are really suggesting that our members really not mention coronavirus or COVID-19 at all.  You can talk about strengthening the immune function,” ​he said.

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