Supplement Loss?

There are some regulatory rumblings that could change the way all of us feed and take care of our horses every day, whether you are a horse owner or a veterinarian. Many nutritional supplements are sold illegally. "What?" you might say. "How can all those products on the shelves, catalogues, and magazine pages be illegal and still be manufactured, advertised, and sold?" The reason is because state officials haven't chosen to regulate them, and many manufacturers either haven't gone through the process to make them legal or make illegal claims on the labels. But, you should understand that just because regulators haven't pulled products off the shelves yet doesn't mean they are legal under state or federal law.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (hereafter called the Act) defines a drug as an article intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease or an article intended to affect the structure or function of the body other than food. In fact, anything that claims to improve or increase production and performance, or to alter or improve function is considered a drug.

When a substance, even one considered food, is intended to be used for the "treatment or prevention of disease or 'non-food' structure/function effect, it 'becomes' a drug," according to Sharon Benz, PhD, PAS, a member of the Nutrition and Labeling Team in the Division of Animal Feeds, Center for Veterinary Medicine, Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

So why are all those human supplements still on the shelves if the animal products are illegal?

In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act (DSHEA) was passed by Congress and amended the Act. The main effect of DSHEA was to remove certain dietary ingredients from regulation as food additives.

In early 1996, the Center for Veterinary Medicine published a notice in the Federal Register outlining the reasons why the FDA believes Congress did not intend DSHEA to apply to products for use in animals. This interpretation has been upheld in at least one court case. So, the products produced and marketed legally for humans are illegal when marketed for animals.

The FDA carries out its regulatory responsibilities in cooperation with state and local partners. The FDA cooperates with the non-profit Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) in developing uniform policies for regulating the use of animal feed products. AAFCO, which is made up of state and federal regulators, has no regulatory power as an organization. But, its model guidelines have been adopted by about half the states as law.

Horse/pet owners and veterinarians want products that are safe and have honest labels. And they want to choose whether or not to try products and see if they work for them. They can't have it both ways; tighter regulations will force some supplements off the market.

Manufacturers want free rein to keep selling their products as they have--with little or no regulatory interference. That's not going to happen.

Regulators want manufacturers to obey the law, whether it's the law for feed ingredients or drugs. They want the companies to be held responsible for their products, and for consumers to ask manufacturers why they haven't gone through the regulatory process to make their products legal. That's going to take time and money in a tight economy.

It's a conflict that won't be solved easily, but it also won't go away.

You as a horse/pet owner or veterinarian need to decide if you want proven, safe products that contain what is said on the label, or if you want the freedom to buy any product for your animals that you can purchase for yourself.

In order to support your decision, you need to contact state regulatory officials, state political representatives, your governor, and your congressmen and tell them what you want. Time is critical because state regulators are going to stage a coordinated "event" for one nutritional ingredient that will receive regulatory attention across North America.

The choice is up to you, but not for long.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners