Founded in 1936, the Natural Products Association is the nation’s largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. NPA represents over 1,400 members accounting for more than 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids. NPA unites a diverse membership, from the smallest health food store to the largest dietary supplement manufacturer.
NPA is recognized for its strong lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., where it serves as the industry watchdog on regulatory and legislative issues. In 1994, NPA played a key role in the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). This important legislation strikes a balance between the need for consumers to have access to and information about safe and effective dietary supplements while also preserving the government’s interest in protecting the public from unsafe products and false and misleading claims.
NPA also has five regional offices located throughout the United States and is governed by a 22-member board of directors representing all segments of the industry.
What are natural products?
Natural products are represented by a wide array of consumer goods that grow in popularity each year. These products include natural and organic foods, dietary supplements, pet foods, health and beauty products, “green” cleaning supplies and more. Generally, natural products are considered those formulated without artificial ingredients and that are minimally processed.
How are natural products regulated?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets standards for use of the term “natural” for meat and poultry. The agency also regulates use of the term “organic” under the Organic Foods Production Act. While the Food and Drug Administration does not have a formal definition for the term natural, the agency has not objected to its use on food labels provided they are truthful and not misleading.
A small group of suppliers of natural food ingredients form an organization to better inform consumers about the benefits of the natural nutrition industry. The group is called the American Health Foods Association (AHFA, which after several name changes over the years will become the Natural Products Association).
The inaugural issue of Health Food Retailing is published. Some consider it the first publication of the nascent nutrition industry. In February 1939, it declares itself the official publication of the association.
AHFA holds its first convention at the Auditorium Hotel in Chicago, where 150 health food industry people gather. The association makes the transition from a consumer group to become the Natural Health Foods Association (NHFA) representing retailers, manufacturers and distributors.
The association holds its second trade show. Held at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago, the convention attracts more than 1,000 consumers and industry members.
Congress passes the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which is the first regulation to establish labeling requirements and daily minimum requirements for several vitamins and minerals.
NHFA becomes the National Dietary Foods Association (NDFA).
NDFA holds its convention at the Hotel Continental in Chicago. An educational highlight is a detailed explanation of the food and drug regulations by Ralph R. Kneeland, a representative from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The annual convention, held in the Hotel Book-Cadillac in Detroit, showcases nearly 100 exhibitors and more than 300 attendees. At the convention, results of a survey of health food retailers are released and reveal that vitamins and minerals make up 34 percent of the profits, while “dietetic” foods comprise 26.5 percent.
At a pharmacists’ convention in Philadelphia, attendees vote to press for legislation making all vitamins, minerals, and food supplements available only in drug stores.
The PELLL, or Public Relations, Education, Legal, Legislation and Lobbying, program is unanimously adopted to counter attacks against industry in the media and public spheres and harmful legislation that had appeared in the last few years in Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York.
Adelle Davis, a nutritional pioneer and eventual author of several books on nutrition, addresses the industry for the first time.
It is reported that a Minnesota law requiring vitamins to be sold in pharmacies has been overturned. Vitamins can now be sold in any food store in that state.
Regional health food associations have notably grown by now. Three of the most active, the Northern California Nutritional Foods Retailers Association, the Southern California Nutritional Association, and the Northwest Dietary Foods Association, hold the West Coast Dietary Foods Fair in Portland, Ore.
The Food Additives Amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act is passed. It includes restrictive measures such as prohibiting the use of several minerals in supplement preparations.
At the annual convention, NDFA members are warned of the threat of proposed FDA regulations, which would severely restrict industry. The law firm of Bass & Friend, headed by industry advocate Milton Bass, Esq., is retained to represent NDFA in the fight against these regulations.
In a speech before the U.S. Senate, Senator Edward V. Long (D-Mo.) says, “If the FDA would spend a little less time on…small manufacturers of vitamins…and a little more on the manufacturers of dangerous drugs…the public would be better served.”
The FDA publishes proposed regulations for labeling and content of dietary supplements; however, public opposition forces further hearings that last into the early 1970s.
NDFA merges with the American Dietary Retailers Association.
At the annual convention in New Orleans, NDFA officially becomes the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA).
Senator William Proxmire, a long-time health advocate, delivers the keynote address at the NNFA annual convention in Washington, D.C.
The FDA publishes final regulations classifying any supplements stronger than 150 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance as drugs.
After years of debate over nutritional supplements, Congress passes the Proxmire Bill prohibiting the FDA from regulating vitamins and minerals as prescription drugs. The bill represents a major defeat for the FDA, which worked to repeal the bill.
President Bush signs into law the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which is intended to improve nutritional information regarding health claims made for products. The FDA is given the job of implementing the law, but because of its broad wording, the agency capitalizes on the opportunity to over-regulate safe and beneficial nutritional products.
The Health Freedom Act is introduced in the Senate along with a similar bill in the House of Representatives to protect the rights of U.S. citizens to choose safe and effective dietary supplements.
To allow for further study of nutritional labeling of dietary supplements, an NLEA Moratorium is enacted in late 1992, postponing implementation of the act.
Passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) creates a new framework for regulation of dietary supplements by the FDA.
The White House Commission on Dietary Supplement Labels issues its report on the future regulation of this product category.
The FDA publishes regulations for structure/function claim notification.
Congress includes in the Food and Drug Modernization Act a provision allowing dietary supplements to make health claims.
FDA regulations require that a “Supplement Facts” panel appear on dietary supplement labels.
The final rule for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program is published.
The final rule for defining structure/function claims for dietary supplements goes into effect.
The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002 (the Bioterrorism Act) becomes law.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act is published.
The Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) becomes law.
Consistent with NPA’s position, leading industry champions in Congress also have made clear that CAFTA will affect how dietary supplements are regulated in the U.S.
The Adverse Event Reporting Bill is signed into law, assuring consumers and the public that the natural products industry makes good products and stands by them.
The FDA publishes its final regulation for Good Manufacturing Practices for dietary supplements. The rule, according to FDA, ensures that “dietary supplements are produced in a quality manner, do not contain contaminants or impurities and are accurately labeled.”
An amendment aimed at safeguarding the human and animal food supply chain in the wake of wide-spread contamination issues is approved in the U.S. Senate with an important exemption for dietary supplements.
The FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) rules come into effect for all producers of dietary supplements.
The FDA publishes the long-awaited small entity compliance guide (SECG) for very small firms under the cGMPs for dietary supplements.
President Barack Obama signs into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The legislation provides better access to healthier foods and sets new standards for food in cafeterias and vending machines.
The Food Safety Modernization Act becomes law. The bill increases consumer protection by giving the FDA authority to order product recalls, requiring food manufacturers to keep more detailed food safety plans, allowing FDA greater access to food company records, and other provisions.