Durbin Raises Concerns Regarding Safety of Dietary Supplements on Senate Floor

Highlights USA Today story revealing dietary supplement containing toxic chemical DNP

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding questions raised by an article published in USA Today that featured a dietary supplement that contained the chemical DNP – a hazardous pesticide that was used as a weight-loss drug before it was declared toxic for humans. Durbin spoke about the need to ensure that consumers are able to make informed decisions, and that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the information it needs to respond quickly and efficiently when safety concerns about dietary supplements – including those contained in energy drinks – arise.


During today’s speech, Durbin announced that he would re-introduce the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act – which he first introduced in 2011 with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) – later this week. In addition, Durbin will deliver remarks tomorrow at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation titled “Energy Drinks: Exploring Concerns about Marketing to Youth.”


“Most supplement makers are ethical and responsible – I take a multivitamin every day and believe it’s safe. But most people assume that the supplements on the shelves in stores have been tested by the federal government for safety and effectiveness. That’s not the case,” Durbin said. “Consumers need to be careful. We need to know that the information on the label is not misleading, and the FDA needs more information to take action when necessary.”


Durbin has been a leader in raising questions about the potential health risks of dietary supplements and the marketing of these products, particularly energy drinks, to youth. Last year, Durbin called for an FDA investigation into energy drinks like ‘Monster Energy’, ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Red Bull’ which contain high levels of caffeine and potentially dangerous ingredients yet are marketed to young people.  Durbin’s call for an investigation came after learning the story of a 14 year-old girl from Maryland, Anais Fournier, who died in December 2011 of a cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity after drinking two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks in a 24-hour period.  


In 2006, Durbin led a bipartisan effort to enact legislation requiring manufacturers to report serious adverse events related to consuming dietary supplements, enhancing the FDA's ability to identify and respond more quickly to potential health problems. The Dietary Supplement Labeling Act would build on that by requiring dietary supplement manufacturers to disclose the known risks of ingredients and display a mandatory warning if the product contains a dietary ingredient that may cause potentially serious adverse events. Labels would also have to include the batch number, which would help the FDA identify and recall contaminated product.