Citing problems with the marketing and labeling of energy drinks and melatonin brownies, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) announced on Tuesday, June 27, that he intends to introduce the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act this week mandating sweeping new regulations for the dietary supplements and functional foods industries.

"You can't make it to the cash register without encountering flashy advertising displays for energy supplements like Rockstar Energy Drink and 5-Hour Energy," Durbin said in a press release announcing the bill. "These products, which market themselves as dietary supplements that offer a boost of energy, are foods and beverages taking advantage of the less stringent safety standards for dietary supplements under current law."

Among other things, Durbin's bill would mandate the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to:

  • establish a definition for "conventional foods"
  • require increased warning language on labels
  • require manufacturers to register dietary supplements with the agency

According to executives from the supplement trade associations, the bill also includes other enhanced registration and labeling requirements the industry would consider either duplicative or excessive—especially given the relatively stellar safety record of supplements.

One fairly unprecedented aspect of the bill would require disclosure of the exact ingredient amounts of proprietary formulations. Would such a move strike at the heart of a company's intellectual property portfolio?

Absolutely, said Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). "It doesn't surprise me," McGuffin added. "Dick Durbin, in his heart of hearts, would like to reduce back to tablets the dietary supplements class and try to roll back dietary supplements law to something he wishes it was, which is a limited choice of dietary supplements to consumers."