The Biden administration will host the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health on September 28, 2022. The conference followed months of meetings between White House officials and nutrition and health experts to strategize on how to end hunger and achieve healthier outcomes by 2030 to reduce Americans’ risk of diet-related diseases such as diabetes, obesity and suffer from high blood pressure. The first and only conference on food, nutrition and health was held 63 years ago in 1959 and was pivotal in persuading authorities to create programs to address food insecurity and nutrition that continue to this day. The Natural Products Association (NPA; Washington, DC) was among those who participated in discussions and submitted comments on integrating nutrition and health.
“We thank the Biden administration for allowing the NPA to provide our analysis of how improved access to essential vitamins and minerals is empowering consumers to make healthcare decisions and gain access to nutritional products said Daniel Fabricant, PhD, President and CEO of NPA, in a press release. “NPA has long worked to expand access to dietary supplements through social programs like SNAP/WIC and through employer-sponsored programs like Health Savings Accounts. We look forward to our continued work with the government and Congress to find legislative solutions to our shared goals.”
The conference has established five pillars that define the scope of the event. These include: 1) improving food access and affordability, 2) integrating nutrition and health, 3) empowering all consumers to make healthy choices and have access to healthy choices, 4) supporting physical activity for all, and 5) Improving research on nutrition and food security.
In light of these pillars, the NPA’s comments underscore the prevalence of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the United States and the need to expand access to dietary supplements for vulnerable populations. The association points to the need for legislation like the Dietary Supplement Tax Fairness Act, which would allow vitamins and minerals to be treated as medical expenses so that people with a health savings account, flexible spending account, or health reimbursement dollars could use that money to supplements.
NPA also suggests that one of the best ways to approach these pillars is to rely less on foreign companies for our food and nutraceutical products, and lists a number of opportunities emerging through legislative and executive action to have. These include the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act, which provides $52 billion for manufacturing, scientific research and workforce development to expand domestic biomanufacturing and accelerate the commercialization of new biotechnology products. There is also the executive order signed by President Biden establishing a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative, which ensures that what is invented in the United States is made in the United States.
“Increasing domestic biomanufacturing capacity is fundamental to our security and national biomanufacturing infrastructure, but also strengthens the U.S. supply chain. Just as modern software engineers draw on existing code libraries to write new programs, our biotechnology engineers look to our code base of cells, enzymes, and genetic programs to launch new projects and drive new discoveries across industries. We hope that the government and Congress will continue to invest in and support the biotechnology industry through the various mechanisms at their disposal,” the NPA wrote in its comments.
“Supporting the biotechnology and nutritional supplement industries will solve consumer access and cost issues by incorporating these high-tech nutrients into mass-market food products. Millions of Americans suffer from food insecurity and diet-related diseases, including heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes — which are among the leading causes of death and disability in the United States,” NPA continues. “The toll of hunger and these diseases is not evenly distributed and is disproportionately affecting underserved communities, including but not limited to communities of color and people living in rural areas. Lack of access to healthy, safe, and affordable health products contributes to hunger-related diseases and health inequalities, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these challenges, and as the federal government continues to support these industries, technological advances will help lower the cost of food products for the mass market.”