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Stricter oversight of dietary supplements closer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stricter government oversight of dietary supplements is moving closer thanks to an agreement among senators to include guidelines in a food safety bill.

Four key areas of "common ground" are outlined in a letter sent by Sens. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, to Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

McCain and Dorgan were co-sponsors of legislation introduced last month, the Dietary Supplement Safety Act, aimed at regulating the industry. This week's letter to Harkin -- also sent to the committee's top Republican, Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican -- talks about incorporating the "areas of agreement" into the FDA Food Safety Modernization Bill.

Those provisions include:

--requiring all dietary supplement manufacturing, processing and holding facilities to register with the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

--giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to issue a mandatory recall order if a dietary supplement is adulterated or misbranded or "the use of such supplement could cause serious adverse health consequences such as death;"

--requiring the FDA commissioner to publish guidelines on new dietary ingredients "as soon as possible;"

--mandating that the FDA notify the Drug Enforcement Administration when a new product contains a synthetic anabolic steroid.

Athletes from various sports have blamed positive drug tests on substances that turn up in dietary supplements even though they aren't listed as ingredients on the label.

McCain has said his bill would protect professional and Olympic athletes -- along with casual sports participants who use supplements.

Pro sports leagues and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency have been supporting McCain's efforts on supplements, and USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart said Wednesday the letter indicates areas in which the new legislative effort "fills holes."

"These are obviously needed improvements, and the agreement provides additional consumer protections which are certainly important to all athletes and why the pro sports and the Olympic sports came together to push for better regulation," Tygart said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It also continues to allow all consumers to have access to legitimate supplements. It's a fair balance, and this step in the process has resulted in a quick and beneficial agreement."