Review of sports supplements could lead to thousands of job losses, retailers say

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Major Australian retailers say up to 70,000 sports supplements could be pulled from shelves and hundreds of jobs lost after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) proposed a series of reforms to reclassify certain health supplements as products therapies or drugs.

But the TGA called for calm over the overhaul, saying there was “a huge amount of misinformation” being circulated by those behind the “Save Aussie Supplements” campaign.

“I’m really worried about the small businesses, the little mom and dad stores that might sell products and they’re scared because they’re being told they’re going to close,” TGA Country Manager John said. Skerritt.

“There should be nothing to fear from the public using supplements except that they will be better regulated and the more harmful ones can be taken off the market or corrected more quickly.”

The review follows an earlier investigation into caffeine supplements after Lachlan Foote, 21, died of acute caffeine toxicity after consuming a product that has since been banned for sale in Australia.

The TGA was also acting in response to an overdose at a Gold Coast high school that left four teenagers in critical condition in 2018.

Hundreds of employees have been made redundant

TGA boss John Skerritt said Save Aussie Supplements was misinformed.(Provided)

Steve Eddy, who leads the Save Aussie Supplements campaign, said the industry welcomed the review but not the Dec. 3 deadline for consumers and businesses to have a say.

“We all want security, we all want better products, but right now it’s going to force people to buy things online overseas,” Eddy said.

“We applaud the TGA for trying to make things a lot safer, but what they are doing now is not consulting widely enough – they have a very narrow consultation window, which is six weeks.”

Nutrition Warehouse chief executive Tony Shaw said it stocks 5,000 products across Australia and the TGA will bankrupt it if it doesn’t adjust its review schedule.

People who support the Save Aussie Supplements campaign argue that the proposed legislation will mean that all sports supplements will be taken off the shelves while their contents are reviewed.

Mr Eddy estimated that around 70,000 products – from protein powders to vitamin blends – currently available to Australian consumers could be withdrawn from sale.

A man in a T-shirt making the shape of a triangle with his fingers to match the symbol on his shirt
Steve Eddy urges the TGA to move the deadline for his exam.(Provided: Save Australian Supplements)

“Your protein powder… that drink that you have before you go to the gym, that pre-workout drink – that will be affected,” he said.

“Any electrolyte replacement drink you take after training at the gym will be affected and this is clearly described in the legislation.”

TGA says review will focus on weight loss products

However, Professor Skerritt denied that the TGA review would have such a widespread effect, saying the products reviewed were largely weight loss products.

“Some are the ones that, for example, have ‘burn’ in their name and are designed to burn fat,” he said.

Man in a gym lifting weights.
The TGA says the public has nothing to fear from its review of supplements.(iStockPhoto)

“These have often been associated with the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, sweating, dizziness.

The Save Aussie Supplements campaign calls on the TGA to extend its consultation deadline beyond December 3.

“We just need more consultation on this, and we just need more time to figure out how it’s going to be rolled out,” Shaw said.

The TGA is adamant that industry concerns are unfounded, ensuring that all manufacturers and distributors nationwide will be consulted during the next review.

Professor Skerritt said there will also be a long transition period for the industry to embrace any changes.


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