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IRON SUPPLEMENT SAFETY CONCERNS TO BE ADDRESSED AT SEPT. 28 MEETING

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

IRON SUPPLEMENT SAFETY CONCERNS TO BE ADDRESSED AT SEPT. 28 MEETING sponsored by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC said it is scheduling the public conference to provide a forum to discuss concerns related to the safety of iron supplements. Members of consumer groups, the supplements industry and the general public will be invited to attend, CPSC noted. The meeting will be officially announced in an upcoming CPSC public calendar. Although CPSC has not yet developed an official agenda for the meeting, the commission expects that a central topic of discussion will be how to better inform the public that iron supplements should be kept out of the reach of children. Depending on concerns raised at the meeting, consumer education materials may be developed and distributed by CPSC as a follow-up to the public forum. The issue of iron supplement safety came to the fore in February, when the Public Health Service issued a warning cautioning parents to keep iron supplements out of the reach of children ("The Tan Sheet" March 1, In Brief). PHS noted that five fatalities in the Los Angeles area were attributed to accidental iron overdoses among children aged 11-18 months from June 1992 to January 1993. Also in February, CPSC issued a consumer product safety alert on iron supplements that recommended the use of child-resistant packaging for iron supplements and urged that the products be kept out of the reach of children. Available in English and in Spanish, the safety alert was distributed to state and local consumer safety groups, poison control centers, the National Poison Prevention Center and members of the media. Iron supplement safety issues also are expected to be the subject of an Aug. 3 meeting between the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the office of New York Assistant Attorney General Shirley Stark. The meeting was scheduled at the request of the New York assistant AG. CRN is one of many industry groups that Stark's office has met with regarding iron supplement safety. Stark expressed her concerns about iron supplements at a July 20 House Government Operations/human resources and intergovernmental relations subcommittee hearing on dietary supplements (see stories beginning on p. 1). Noting that "our office recently became aware of the problem of childhood poisonings caused by" iron supplements, Stark continued: "Because these products are marketed as foods, they do not carry warnings about the dangers of overdose. This must be changed and we are currently addressing the problem." The Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association also is planning to become involved in the iron supplement safety issue. NDMA is currently in the preliminary stages of developing a public education program on iron supplements. In a statement released at the July 20 House hearing, NDMA stated that the iron public education campaign would be undertaken in collaboration with government entities. CPSC, for one, has already expressed its intent to work with the association on the program. NDMA expects that the education campaign will address both safety concerns and health benefits associated with iron supplements. NDMA added in its statement that it is "working with government to decide if further label warnings are needed and if additional packaging safeguards are possible" for iron supplement products. Child-resistant closures are already provided on most iron supplement packages containing more than 250 mg iron, NDMA pointed out.
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