A Tax on Weight Loss Products Would Harm, Not Help

Washington, D.C., June 7, 2018—In response to a new study, “Could a Tax on Unhealthy Products Sold for Weight Loss Reduce Consumer Use? A Novel Estimation of Potential Taxation Effects,” published online earlier this week in Preventive Medicine, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry, issued the following statement:

Statement by Steve Mister, president & CEO, CRN: 
“The desire to address eating disorders and body dysmorphia is well-intended, but the latest proposal to tax over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements for intended weight management would do nothing to tackle these issues. Instead, as this research demonstrates, a tax would have relatively minimal influence on overall purchasing behavior, but would increase prices and seek to discourage responsible use of these products. CRN challenges the recommendations at the conclusion of this new study, because they are simply unsupported by the facts and the study’s own outcome that consumer purchasing behavior for these products is relatively inelastic. CRN will continue to fight against any attempt—especially those that are flawed—to restrict consumer access to safe and legal dietary supplements. Our resolve is especially strong considering no causal relationship between weight management supplements and eating disorders has been identified. 

More than 170 million Americans take dietary supplements confidently each year, and while use of these products is widespread, abuse of weight management products is neither prevalent nor well-documented, despite what the study authors suggest. While adverse events associated with supplements do occur, when put into proper context, the 2015 New England Journal of Medicine study, disingenuously referenced here, actually demonstrates the wide margin of safety for dietary supplements. We estimate that far less than one tenth of one percent of dietary supplement users experience an emergency room visit annually, and we are committed to lessening that already miniscule statistic through effective means.

Consumer safety is a top priority for the dietary supplement industry, and the responsible industry has lobbied for, and helped to enact, key dietary supplement legislation and regulation to improve consumer safety. As a result of our efforts as well as FDA’s regulatory oversight and enforcement actions, consumers who choose to use dietary supplements responsibly are well-protected.” 

Note to EditorThe Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing 150+ dietary supplement and functional food manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements and food in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as to CRN’s Code of Ethics. Visit www.crnusa.org. Follow us on Twitter @CRN_Supplements and LinkedIn.