DSHEA: Sen. Orrin Hatch’s Legacy to Direct Selling

Sen. Orrin Hatch

Photo credit: AP Photo

Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah—home to nearly 100 direct selling companies—will retire next month.

The 84-year-old Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in US history, has spearheaded several initiatives during his time in Washington, including leading the Senate’s anti-terrorism bill in response to the Oklahoma City bombing, and, as a senior member of the Select Intelligence Committee, helping to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Even in his last few days in office he continues to see legislation he authored being passed by the Senate: the Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act, co-written with Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Brian Schatz of Hawaii; and the Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking Act, authored with Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah).

However, what may be his greatest legacy to his constituents in Utah is his sponsoring, along with former Democratic Sen. Tom Harken of Iowa, of the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act, or DSHEA, in 1994. That legislation, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1995, defined and regulated the sale of dietary supplements, allowing manufacturers—like Utah-based Nature’s Sunshine, Nu Skin and ForeverGreen—and to make general health claims about their products without going through the Food and Drug Administration to prove safety or efficacy.

In October 2014, on the 20th anniversary of the bill, Hatch was honored by the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), the Utah-based organization that has members in the worldwide food supplement industry. According to the UNPA, the compounded sales growth of the dietary supplements industry in Utah is reported to be nearly 11 percent per year since 1992. Sponsors of that event included 4Life Research, Morinda, doTERRA and Nu Skin.

However, the law has not been without its detractors over the years, particularly members of the medical community who argue that it prevents the FDA from vetting or knowing what new products and ingredients companies are releasing on the market. And this is particularly important in light of the fact that consumers cannot determine whether a dietary supplement, in a powdered or pill form, is spoiled like they can with fruit.

However, last year, at Nature’s Sunshine 45th anniversary celebration, Sen. Hatch made clear his commitment to defending the law to an audience that included Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes, other recipients of the industry’s campaign contributions.

“DSHEA was one of the most hard-fought bills in the history of this country and we still have enemies back there trying to make headway,” he said. “But we have succeeded largely because of companies like yours. We have succeeded in spreading the word around this world that dietary supplements are essential to human living.”

The question is, as Sen. Hatch prepares for retirement, is there another lawmaker who will champion the direct selling industry as he has for the past few decades? While that is unclear, what is clear is the impact Orrin Hatch has made on his state and the industry.