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Innovation

Why Gary Null had to sue himself

Nutrition guru Gary Null had to practically sue himself -- in the form of supplement manufacturer Triarco Industries -- because he lacked the protection of government regulation.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Nutrition guru Gary Null had to practically sue himself -- in the form of supplement manufacturer Triarco Industries -- because he lacked the protection of government regulation. (Picture from Null's Web site.)

Null sued because he was using his own product, called Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal -- and was made ill because, as he wrote on his blog, a subcontractor put too much Vitamin D in the mix.

A search for the product today leads to this paid ad from lawyers Bunch & James in Florence, Alabama, which is looking for clients.

Null was forced into his $10 million lawsuit, risking his business, including a popular radio show, because manufacturers like Triarco don't need to register or gain FDA approval for supplements, under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. There are a set of Good Manufacturing Practices, but that's it.

The FDA hasn't acted against a supplement since 2004, when it moved against Ephedra. Its limited oversight was criticized as recently as last year.

It's common to assume that all government regulation is bad, that it's burdensome, that it's an interference with the free market.

But the purpose of regulation is always to stop businesses before they get themselves into serious legal trouble -- before they hurt someone, or even kill someone, through negligence or mere corner-cutting.

Because regulations did not protect him, Null wound up torpedoing his own company and suing a firm that may have benefited from timely, regular regulatory scrutiny.

Triarco and the whole industry are now at the mercy of the plaintiff's bar, and based on recent statements from Null's lawyers they're fortunate not to be facing a district attorney.

Worse, Null himself is now open to public ridicule. Quack gets dose of his own medicine, nearly dies writes P.Z. Myers at Science Blogs. Happy Meal, Ultimate Power Meal both deadly, chimes in Gawker.

Being called a "quack" or worse is never fun. I know this from experience. And in many ways Null is the victim here -- he didn't put the extra Vitamin D into the mix, it was a subcontractor.

But it's his name behind the bottle, and it's his reputation that suffers. The whole industry suffers, because there is no procedure in place, backed by government, to keep this from happening again.

There is some sense that Null's own thinking is evolving. Recent posts at his personal blog have attacked BP and Goldman Sachs, both of which could now face possible criminal action because lax regulation let them do things which, in retrospect, they should not have done.

It's a Paul to Damascus moment but, in Null's case, it comes too late.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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