Natural Products Association responds to GAO's 'secret shopper' investigation

WASHINGTON The Government Accountability Office on Wednesday presented to a congressional panel the results of a “secret shopper” investigation, which found that in a number of retail establishments visited, the salesperson made inappropriate or illegal claims about dietary supplements.

The investigation results have drawn response from industry group the Natural Products Association, which said misleading customers is "not acceptable."

“The Natural Products Association has always made clear through numerous channels including educational materials available on our Web site, and education at our tradeshow, that if a retail salesperson is misleading customers, offering medical diagnoses, or making drug claims about supplements, then that is a violation of the law –– no ifs, ands, or buts,” stated John Gay, NPA executive director and CEO. “While the findings of the GAO may be explained by turnover common in the retail sector, or by new retailers entering the market unaware of their obligations; any violation of the law is not acceptable.”

Accordingly, the NPA has announced an expanded effort to educate and train retailers and their staffs on what can and cannot be said to customers. This effort initially will include the following:

• Development of a “tool kit” for retailers to use to train their staffs;• expanded training programs including live sessions at trade shows, Webinars, and teleconferences;• Partnerships with industry media to broaden the reach of educational materials;• More frequent and regular content on rules for salespeople in NPA publications and communications; and• Development of a dedicated Web page with education and training materials to serve salespeople, retailers, and customers.