On December 4, 2023, the Natural Products Association (NPA) filed a lawsuit against the State of New York — specifically Attorney General Letitia James — arguing that the state’s recently-enacted law that prohibits and restricts dietary supplement purchases is unconstitutional.
This article explains the law, summarizes the lawsuit, provides a quote from the Natural Products Association (New York has not yet commented), and will be updated as major news occurs.
About The New York Supplement Restriction Law
The bill was titled Assembly Bill A5610D and was signed into law on October 25, 2023 by Governor Kathy Hochul. It’s set to be enacted as NY General Business Law § 391-oo on April 22, 2024.
The law minimizes public access to dietary supplements and, in certain situations, requires a prescription to access some products. Retailers’ failure to comply would result in fines for each infraction.
Proof of age for weight loss or muscle building dietary supplements
More specifically, the law focuses on “dietary supplements for weight loss or muscle building”.
It excludes protein powders, protein drinks, and foods marketed as containing protein — unless it contains an ingredient other than protein that’s considered a weight loss or muscle-building supplement.
Stores may not sell these supplements to any person under 18 years of age, and retail establishments must require proof of age for them. It also requires deliveries of such products to be signed for by adults with proof of ID.
Determination of products in these categories will be based upon several factors, such as if it implies reduced body weight, fat, appetite, or overall metabolism. It also specifically calls out any products with creatine, green tea extract, raspberry ketone, garcinia cambogia, and green coffee bean extract.
Key points of the NPA’s New York lawsuit
The case, filed in the Eastern District of New York, specifically names New York Attorney General Letitia James, since she’s delegated as the authority of enforcing this law. It begins by justifying the jurisdiction and validity of the lawsuit, as it seeks to redress the deprivation of rights of NPA’s member parties.
The Federal Law that Preempts a State’s Ability to Enforce This Law
It then provides background facts, explaining that dietary supplement manufacturing, use, and sales are regulated by the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act (FDCA). It shows federal laws such as:
- 21 USC § 343-1(a)(5), which preempts state laws from requiring claims that different from FDCA’s requirements.
- 21 USC § 337(a), which prohibits the private enforcement of any of the provisions of FDCA — “all such proceedings for the enforcement, or to restrain violations, of this chapter shall be by and in the name of the United States.”
So NPA is arguing that New York’s law violates the federal government’s exclusive enforcement authority on matters relating to the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act.
The NPA also argues that New York’s Law is in conflict with other parts of the FDCA that define dietary supplements because the law attempts to make product definitions that conflict with the FDCA. Additionally, prescription and over-the-counter drugs could also be included in this law’s enforcement, and those are not dietary supplements.
Further, the law attempts to define what constitutes “weight loss” and “muscle-building” supplements, but such definitions are also the responsibility of the federal government, not the states. This can lead to “improper arbitrary and capricious application of the law”.
An unconstitutional law
In short, point 39 quickly summarizes this for us:
“Since the FDCA and the Act are in direct conflict, the FDCA preempts the Act and the Act is unconstitutional.”
Seeking declaratory judgment and order of restraint
As such, in the lawsuit’s prayer for relief section, the NPA seeks a declaratory judgment that the Act is unconstitutional on its face, and requests an order restraining the state from enforcing the law. They also request attorneys’ fees.
Case updates to be reported in this article
The Natural Products Association has promised to keep us in the loop with major updates as the case develops. You can sign up for alerts on PricePlow’s Natural Products Association news page or in the widget at the bottom of this page.
Through January of 2024, the only update is that the State of New York requested an extension until February 1, 2024 to get through the Holidays and other scheduled cases.
Take Action Now!
Join the NPA
Additionally, brands, manufacturers, and retailers can look to join the Natural Products Association to receive support from the leading trade association for dietary supplements and natural health products.
NPA’s Dan Fabricant speaks out
Dan Fabricant, the Natural Products Association’s President and CEO, released the following statement:
“Governor Hochul’s decision to flip-flop and cave to anti-supplement charlatans is evidence she cares more about politics than New Yorkers ability to stay healthy.
Not only is this unconstitutional, but this prohibition is a bad policy threatening the ability of nearly 80% of Americans to access wellness products they’ve relied on for their health routines. It also violates the U.S. Constitution because it hands the state’s executive branch unfettered discretion to restrict access to dietary supplements and relies on an absurd enforcement mechanism to enforce compliance. We believe the court will recognize the serious concerns raised and declare it unconstitutional.”
— Dan Fabricant, NPA President & CEO
You can learn more about Dan Fabricant in Episode #100 of the PricePlow Podcast, where he explains why everyone needs to get involved in their industry’s political matters.
Request for comment out for Letitia James
We have reached out to the office of Letitia James for further comment, and will update this article if we receive one.
The background and basis of the law
The New York legislators who created this bill argued that these supplements lead to eating disorders. This has never been established — not through correlation nor causation. There is zero data showing the likelihood of developing an eating disorder as a result of using weight loss products.
The lawsuit argues that such situations would be filed as adverse events (for which there have been none), and that, too, is under the purview of the federal government, not the states.
Instead, the argument that “fat burners lead to eating disorders” has seemingly been pushed for political grandstanding and headline-worthy clickbait. If we come across any research indicating a correlation or causation between supplements and eating disorders, we will post updates here.
The lawsuit was served by Kevin Bell and Matthew Zapadka of Arnall Golden Gregory (AGG),[8-10] one of NPA’s Washington DC Law Firms. Their New York representation is Aaron Zerykier of Polsinelli PC. It has a case number of 2:2023-cv-08912.
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