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Category: FDAFederal Government AffairsNews Releases

Health-Freedom Crisis Another Supposed Health-Freedom Crisis – The Real Facts on Durbin’s Amendment
By Lee Bechtel, NHF National Lobbyist
August 06, 2007


PRESS RELEASE

Health-Freedom Crisis
Another Supposed Health-Freedom Crisis –
The Real Facts on Durbin’s Amendment 

By Lee Bechtel, NHF National Lobbyist
August 6, 2007

The National Health Federation does not normally directly address another organization’s comments or efforts, but we have recently received e-mails asking us to jump on yet another supposed “health-freedom” bandwagon.   This Press Release is intended to respond to these and all other queries on this issue. 

You Are Being Played for a Fool 

A recent send-out by a health-freedom organization claims that a new health-freedom crisis exists.  This supposed crisis disaster relates to the inclusion or exclusion of Senator Dick Durbin's food-safety amendment in the FDA user-fee and reform legislation pending before Congress.  S.1082 passed the Senate and H.R. 2900, also known as the FDA Amendments Act of 2007, passed the House of Representatives. A joint House/Senate conference committee has yet to be appointed to approve a final bill, before being re-passed by both chambers. 

The supposed crisis is that if the Durbin amendment is not included in the final bill approved by Congress, its absence will have a decisive difference in federal nutritional foods and supplements policy.  The NHF has always supported true consumer protection against adulterated imported pet and raw agricultural products and foods.  Based upon the review and the substance of the amendment and Senator Durbin's own explanation of the purpose of his amendment on the floor of the Senate, and the legislative process facts, the NHF does not believe that the Durbin amendment is even remotely a creditable health-freedom crisis issue threat. The NHF believes that the crisis being claimed is, in fact, a nonexistent FDA threat to nutritional foods and supplements. 

Ignorance of FDA policy and Congressional legislative process is doing a disservice to health-freedom advocates. Groups that are asking people to write Congress in support of a nonexistent FDA threat are also supporting more FDA intrusion into our lives. Everyone wants safe pet and human food ingredients in products, but there is NO relevancy between the Durbin amendment and nutritional food and dietary supplement policy or regulation. 

The Durbin Amendment 

Knowledgeable analysis shows that the words “nutritional foods” and “supplements” appear nowhere in the Durbin amendment.  The Durbin amendment applies to pet-food labeling standards, imported raw agricultural and fish products, imported finished foods, and food ingredients for human and animal food products. Adulterated foreign pet and human food ingredients have little to do with a looming health-freedom disaster directly impacting nutritional foods and dietary supplements; these are covered under the DSHEA law. If these groups were up to speed on FDA policy and regulations, they would know that the recently released Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for dietary supplements address domestic and foreign import product and ingredient manufacturing safety and are one of the real threats. 

When the Senate considered S.1082, Durbin wanted to add his Food Safety Agency Bill, S.645.  His bill would have transfered all food regulatory authority (except for supplements) to a newly created federal food agency, leaving food supplements along with pharmaceuticals in a truncated FDA.  Without this legal authority, the FDA would be required to regulate supplements like drugs. The NHF was successful in forcing Durbin to withdraw this attempt.  In its place, the Senator had to settle for this food-safety amendment to S.1082.  At that time, as of now, the NHF had no position on the Durbin amendment because it does not address nor does it pose a threat to whole foods or supplements. 

The NHF takes its responsibility to educate its members, and others, on federal legislation and potential real health-freedom threats seriously. The NHF closely followed the 82 proposed amendments to S.1082, and House action on H.R. 2900. What is hypocritical about the current claim being made by some other organizations is that the hard facts against it speak for themselves.  Evidence – instead of uninformed supposition – is what the health-freedom community, and its advocates, deserve. 

As of now, House/Senate Conference Committee members have not been appointed.  When they are, the Durbin amendment will not be a matter in disagreement to even be resolved. As of now, Congressional Representatives do not even know who the conferees will be. What good does it do to ask the health-freedom community to send a letter to their Senators and Congresspersons asking them to support Durbin, when Congressional Representatives and their staffs do not know who will be involved? And, when conferees are appointed, how silly will it look when a person's support of the Durbin amendment letter will not be an issue even addressed by the Conference committee?

What Durbin’s Amendment Really Says

Every person – and especially those who have dogs and cats – wants safe food. But, specifically, how does the Durbin amendment not make a decisive difference on access to or the regulation of dietary supplements or nutritional foods?  Or, does it at all? The text of the Durbin amendment to S.1082, and his Statement in the Congressional Record on the purpose of the amendment shows that the claimed crisis is erroneous. 

The Congressional Record Statement of Senator Durbin, in part, says that "There are provisions in this amendment which go directly to the pet food issue, provisions which require the FDA to update their labeling standards for pet food . . . .  We work with the [HHS and FDA] Secretary as well and the States on activities and programs to improve the safety of raw agricultural commodities. . . . .  We also establish something that I think is historic. It applies to pet and human foods. It is an adulterated food register, to collect information on cases of imported food adulteration and suspected adulteration that are potentially dangerous and improves the speed by which consumers learn about them."

Why Help Durbin?

In the Congressional-legislative domain, telling members of Congress to support anything Senator Durbin does – as this group suggests people do – especially when it does not relate to a real health-freedom peril, helps Durbin in his future efforts to legislate for more FDA control over whole foods and supplements. Why would any health-freedom group knowingly want to proactively support Senator Durbin in these efforts?  The answer is:  A real health-freedom group would not.

The NHF has and is closely following this legislation. As the oldest and best-respected health-freedom group on Capitol Hill, the NHF continues to be the credible source of objective assessment, and proactive actions on Congressional legislation and FDA matters that have meaningful impacts upon our freedom-of-health choices.

To view the Durbin Food Safety Amendment of May 2, 2007 - Click Here 

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About the National Health Federation

Established in 1955, the National Health Federation is a consumer-education, health-freedom organization working to protect individuals' rights to choose to consume healthy food, take supplements and use alternative therapies without government restrictions. With consumer members all over the world, and a Board of Governors and Advisory Board containing representatives from 6 different countries, the Federation is unique is being the only consumer health freedom organization in the world to enjoy official observer status with the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

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