Photo: Athlete Kara Saunders (left), Sarah West and Tony Shaw all back the Save Aussie Supplements campaign. (Supplied: Save Aussie Supplements)
Major Australian retailers say up to 70,000 sports supplements could be pulled from the shelves and hundreds of jobs lost after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) proposed a raft of reforms to reclassify some health supplements as therapeutic goods or medicines.
- TGA boss John Skerritt says the public has nothing to fear from its health supplements review
- Steve Eddy from Save Aussie Supplements wants the TGA review deadline shifted
- Professor Skerritt says there is a “lot of misinformation” about the supplements overhaul
But the TGA has called for calm in the wake of the overhaul, saying there was a “tremendous lot of misinformation” being distributed by those behind the “Save Aussie Supplements” campaign.
“I’m really worried about small companies, small mum and dad stores that might be selling products and they’re being scared because they’re being told that they’ll be out of business,” TGA national manager John Skerritt said.
“There should be nothing to fear from the public using supplements, except that they’ll be better regulated and harmful ones will be able to be taken off the market or remedied faster.”
The review comes in the wake of an earlier investigation into caffeine supplements after 21-year-old Lachlan Foote died from acute caffeine toxicity after he consumed a product that has since been banned from sale in Australia.
The TGA was also acting in response to an overdose at a Gold Coast high school that left four teenage boys in a critical condition in 2018.
Claims hundreds of staff to be sacked
Steve Eddy, who heads the Save Aussie Supplements campaign, said the industry welcomed the review but not the deadline of December 3 for consumers and companies to have their say.
“We all want the safety, we all want better products but currently it’s going to force people to buy things online from overseas,” Mr Eddy said.
“We applaud the TGA for trying to make things a lot safer, but what they’re doing now is not consulting widely enough — they’re having a very narrow window of consultation, which is six weeks.”
Nutrition Warehouse general manager Tony Shaw said he stocks 5,000 products Australia-wide and the TGA will put him out of business if it did not adjust the timeframe of its review.
“We’re going to have to let go of over 300 staff, we’re possibly going to have to close up to 80 stores. We just can’t survive,” Mr Shaw said.
People who support the Save Aussie Supplements campaign argue the proposed legislation will mean all sports supplements will be taken off the shelves while their content is scrutinised.
Mr Eddy estimated about 70,000 products — from protein powders to vitamin blends — that are currently available to Australian consumers could be removed from sale.
Photo: Steve Eddy is urging the TGA to shift the deadline for its review. (Supplied: Save Aussie Supplements)
“Your protein powder … that drink you have before you go to the gym, that pre-workout drink — that will be affected,” he said.
“Any electrolyte replacement drink that you have after the gym post workout, that will be affected and that’s clearly outlined in the legislation.”
TGA says review will focus on weight loss products
However, Professor Skerritt denied the TGA review would have such widespread effect, saying the products under review were largely weight loss products.
“Some are ones that, for example, have ‘burn’ in their name and are designed to burn fat,” he said.
“These have often been associated with the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, sweating, dizziness.
“The idea that people coming in in black uniforms, sweeping products off the shelves — I think we’ve been watching too many movies.”
The Save Aussie Supplements campaign is calling on the TGA to extend their consultation deadline beyond December 3.
“We just need more consultation about it, and we just need more time to actually work out how that’s going to be rolled out,” Mr Shaw said.
The TGA is adamant the industry’s concerns are unwarranted, assuring all manufactures and distributors nationwide will be consulted during the upcoming review.
Professor Skerritt said there would also be a lengthy transition period for the industry to adopt any changes.