CA Assembly Health Committee OKs Ephedra Ban

Tuesday, July 1, 2003
Elisa Odabashian or Michael McCauley

Proposal Now Moves to Assembly Floor for Final Vote

SACRAMENTO, CA – A proposed California ban on the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra cleared a critical hurdle when it was approved by the Assembly Health Committee. SB 582, introduced by Senator Jackie Speier will now move to the floor for a full vote by the Assembly. The proposal has already cleared the California Senate and similar bans have been approved by Illinois and the New York State Legislature.
“Today’s vote brings California one step closer to banning hazardous dietary supplements containing ephedra,” said Elisa Odabashian, Senior Policy Analyst for Consumers Union’s West Coast Regional Office. “We believe that ephedra supplements
offer very limited benefits while putting consumers at risk to some serious health problems.”
From January 1993 through October 2000, the FDA received almost 1400 reports of adverse events linked to herbal supplements containing ephedra, including 81 deaths, 32 heart attacks, 62 reports of cardiac arrhythmia, 91 reports of hypertension, 69 strokes, and 70 seizures. Complaints to the FDA about ephedra made up 42 percent of all dietary supplement complaints and 59 percent of all reported deaths.
In February, the 23-year-old pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, Steve Bechler, who had been taking an ephedra product (Xenadrine RFA-1), died of heatstroke in Florida spring training. On March 13, 2003, Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper said that toxicology tests confirmed that “significant amounts” of the over-the-counter supplement containing ephedra led to the heatstroke, along with other factors. Following this incident, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new labels for ephedra products that would list death, heart attacks, and strokes as possible side effects. Last year, California passed a statute that bans the sale of ephedra to minors and requires warning labels on such products.
“We applaud the Assembly Health Committee for acting to protect California consumers by supporting the proposed ban on ephedra,” said Odabashian. “Given the FDA’s failure to ban these dangerous dietary supplements, it’s time for California to act.”

Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization, serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.