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ABC Files Public Comments to FDA on New Dietary Ingredients

Austin, Texas (February 2, 2005). On Tuesday, February 1 the American Botanical Council filed public comments with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the subject of New Dietary Ingredients (NDIs) as defined by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA)1.

ABC’s comments were prepared in response to a Notice filed by the FDA in the Federal Register on October 20, 2004 in which FDA announced a public meeting to be held on November 15 at which various parties were able to present their views on how the FDA should regulate NDIs2. The Agency allowed the public to file written comments on NDIs until February 1.

“Ten years after its passage FDA is now preparing to fully implement all the provisions of DSHEA,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council. He added, “For many years various herbal experts, researchers, industry groups and others have expressed concern that some of the problems viewed in the herb and dietary supplement market were a result of inadequate enforcement of existing laws and regulations. ABC appreciates this opportunity to work with all interested parties for more rational regulation and self-regulation of the herb market,” he added.

Under the terms of DSHEA dietary ingredients (vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and other similar substances) that were sold in the U.S. market prior to the passage of DSHEA on October 15, 1994 were considered “grandfathered”, i.e., they can be sold without any documentation of their safety as a precondition of their being offered for sale. These ingredients have been called by industry and regulators “old dietary ingredients” or ODIs even though this term does not appear in the language of DSHEA.

To help protect the American public from potentially unsafe new ingredients that had never been sold previously in the food supply in the U.S., Congress created Section 8 of DSHEA dealing with “new dietary ingredients” (NDIs). The NDI provision requires that the seller of any dietary ingredient intended for initial introduction into the U.S. market after October 15, 1994 must notify the FDA at least 75 days in advance of marketing the ingredient. The 75-day notification must include documentation of the safety of the “new dietary ingredient” (NDIs).

To date, there has been little formal guidance from the FDA as to how much and what type of information should be submitted for FDA’s consideration, and what standard of evidence would be employed by FDA in determining whether the ingredient would be allowed to be sold. These topics and other related issues were the subject of testimony by various industry groups, companies and individuals at the FDA’s meeting on November 15 as well as the public comments filed by ABC, various trade organizations, and, presumably, other groups and individuals yesterday.

In order to help determine which ingredients were NDIs, shortly after DSHEA was passed, several dietary supplement industry trade organizations began developing lists of ODIs (or “grandfather” lists as some were called). Even though these lists were used as reference points by industry and were not considered “authoritative” by the FDA (i.e., each ingredient on the lists had not been verified to have been sold prior to October 15, 1994 with formal evidence, e.g., an invoice, bill of lading, catalog listing, etc.), ABC’s comments suggest that FDA should officially recognize the lists developed by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), and the Utah Natural Products Alliance (UNPA) as positive lists of ODIs. ABC stated that since ten years has lapsed since the passage of DSHEA, it does not believe that it should be necessary to create a new “authoritative” list in which all ingredients are confirmed as ODIs with such confirmatory evidence as FDA might have required previously, particularly since some of the records needed for such confirmation are probably no longer extant.

ABC also noted that FDA has recently stated in correspondence that an ingredient must have been “lawfully marketed” prior to October 15, 1994 for it to qualify as an ODI. In the comments filed with FDA yesterday ABC objected to this stipulation, noting that this term does not appear in DSHEA and was thus was not the intent of Congress. ABC noted that in the pre-DSHEA regulatory environment there was considerable confusion about the legal and regulatory status of most botanicals and FDA tried unsuccessfully to remove some herbs from the market by declaring them “unapproved food additives.” FDA was stopped by two highly publicized federal court decisions from doing so, and these cases, among other issues, became a primary impetus supporting the passage of DSHEA.

ABC has had a keen interest in the issue of NDIs. In 2004 ABC published an extensive article on this subject in HerbalGram (issue #63) in which the authors demonstrate that about 70 percent of the notifications for botanical NDIs were not accepted by FDA3. This was usually due to the lack of adequate safety data being filed or other problems with the submissions-much of which was related to the lack of any formal guidance from FDA.

About the American Botanical Council

Established in 1988, the American Botanical Council (ABC) is the leading non-profit, member-based international organization working to educate consumers, healthcare professionals, researchers, educators, industry, and the media on the safe and effective use of medicinal plants. ABC is located on a 2.5 acre site in Austin, Texas where it publishes HerbalGram, a peer-reviewed journal. ABC is also the publisher of The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, a continuing education and reference book, which contains extensive monographs on the safety and efficacy of 29 popular herbs. More details are available on the ABC website at Or contact ABC at P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX 78714-4345, phone: 512-926-4900, fax: 512-926-2345. Web site:


1 American Botanical Council. Comments to Food and Drug Administration on Premarket Notifications for New Dietary Ingredients [Docket No. 2004N-0454]. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council, Feb. 1, 2005.

2 Food and Drug Administration. Dietary Supplements; Premarket Notification for New Dietary Ingredient Notifications; Public Meeting. [Notices] Federal Register 69;202: 61680-61684. Oct.20, 2004.

3 Noonan C, Noonan WP. New Dietary Ingredients: DSHEA Provides Protection from Potentially Unsafe New Ingredients with no Prior Market History in the U.S. HerbalGram. 2004;63:70-74.

Contact: Cheryl Dipper RuizAmerican Botanical Council P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX 78714-4345Phone: 512-926-4900 x121; Fax: 512-926-2345Email: the American Botanical Council Web site: www.herbalgram.or