Nevada governor orders health food stores to close as part of disease lockdown

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images

Related tags: coronavirus, COVID-19

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has ordered health food stores to close in his state, prompting pushback from dietary supplement industry stakeholders.

Earlier this month Sisolak ordered all ‘nonessential’ business, including the state’s many casinos, to close for 30 days​ in response the coronavirus crisis. Now, according to the Natural Products Association, he has added health food stores to that list.

“Governor Sisolak’s decision is shortsighted and inconsistent with the federal government and other states and amounts to an assault on small businesses.  We hope that is not the Governor’s intention,” ​said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., President and CEO of NPA. 

Fabricant noted that consumers access a broad array of healthful products via these outlets, including dietary supplements. In late March the US Department of Homeland Security clarified the position of employees of dietary supplement manufacturing and sales operations, deeming them as essential.

NPA:  Federal government has made it clear which workers  and businesses should be deemed essential

NPA noted that as states and territories move to close more and more businesses to restrict the movement of citizens in a bid to slow the rate of new infections, clarification has come from the federal level as to who ought to be exempted from those orders.  NPA noted that the DHS guidance included these clarifications of who should be considered an essential worker:

  • Manufactur[ing] workers for health manufacturing (including biotechnology companies), materials and parts suppliers, logistics and warehouse operators, distributors of medical equipment (including those who test and repair), personal protective equipment (PPE), isolation barriers, medical gases, pharmaceuticals (including materials used in radioactive drugs), dietary supplements, blood and blood products, vaccines, testing materials, laboratory supplies, cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilization supplies, and tissue and paper towel products.
  • Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores, and other retail (including unattended and vending) that sells human food, animal/pet food and pet supply, and beverage products, including retail customer support service and information technology support staff necessary for online orders, pickup and delivery.

 “This is unfortunate and inconsistent with federal guidance,”​ said Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance. “Moreover, given the importance of health food products at a time when consumers everywhere are trying to maintain the highest level of nutritional fortification, health food stores provide a unique selection of food and supplement nutritional choices considered critical by many.”

“We hope the governor will reconsider this decision in the interest of providing all Nevadans access to essential products to weather the COVID-19 storm,”​ he added.

NPA has opened up a grassroots communication portal on the topic which can be accessed here​.

Amid COVID-19 crisis, Oregon proposes state right to police claims

In addition to the Nevada action, NPA said another state-based threat to the dietary supplement industry has come in the form of a new claims review authority proposed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

The state’s department of justice recently announced a proposed rulemaking titled “Representations Regarding Health Benefits of Goods”​ The rule states: 

“It is unfair and deceptive for an advertiser or seller to make a representation of fact about a health benefit of a good without first having competent and reliable scientific evidence upon which to base a reasonable belief in the truth of the representation.” 

In comments submitted to the state docket NPA objected to the proposed rule on several counts. In NPA’s view the term ‘health benefit’ is ill defined, as is the term ‘competent and reliable scientific evidence.’

In addition, the rule duplicates efforts conducted at the federal level by the US Federal Trade Commission.  This is both unnecessary and potential confusing, NPA maintains.

“You already have the FTC. So, what, now you’re going to have an Oregon FTC that will be better than federal version?  This amounts to double jeopardy,” ​Fabricant said.

“This also opens a private right to action,”​ Fabricant added.  That could open the door to class action lawsuits that would do little to protect consumers, he said.

Related topics: Healthy Foods, Regulation, Markets, COVID-19

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