February 3, 2022
James Turner’s Enduring Impact on
Health Freedom and Consumer Choice
WASHINGTON, D.C.— James S. Turner, Esq., Chairman and President of Citizens for Health (CFH), passed away suddenly at his Washington, D.C. home on January 25; he was 81.
“Jim has been one of the most powerful and articulate voices and leaders in health freedom and consumer choice. We look forward to honoring Jim’s vision by continuing the vital work that Citizens for Health does on behalf of all Americans,” said James Gormley, Vice President and Senior Policy Advisor of Citizens for Health.
One of Ralph Nader’s original “Nader’s Raiders,” Mr. Turner co-wrote the 1970 book, The Chemical Feast: Ralph Nader’s Study Group Report on the Food and Drug Administration.
Time Magazine commented at the time that Mr. Turner’s book “may well be the most devastating critique of a U.S. Government agency ever issued.”
Believing that private sector attorneys could energize the consumer movement, in 1973 Mr. Turner joined with David Swankin, a former aide to White House Consumer Advisor Esther Peterson, to create the law firm of Swankin & Turner, in which he remained an active principal for nearly five decades until his death.
From representing organizations such as the Consumer Federation of America as well as individual consumers, to consulting for major businesses on consumer policy, the firm of Swankin & Turner has fought for consumer interests and advocated consumer policies across a broad range of issues while influencing regulatory matters concerning food, drugs, health, the environment, and product safety.
In 1992, Mr. Turner began to take a leadership role in Citizens for Health, a consumer organization defending individual choice and access in health matters and nutrition and served as Chairman and President for many years until the time of his death.
He was instrumental in winning passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), which defines and regulates dietary supplements, and the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established uniform national standards for the production and handling of food labeled as “organic.”
In 1996, he helped start Consumers for Dental Choice, which in turn led an international coalition of environmental, dental, and consumer groups to gain adoption of an anti-amalgam provision in the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
His recent advocacy includes collaborating on the successful push to convince the FDA to send the New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) Draft Guidance back to the drawing board, and a number of citizen petitions to the FDA, including one calling for the FDA to reverse its approval of sucralose, and another calling for FDA action to protect the public from the illegal, mislabeled use of high fructose corn syrup.
Mr. Turner has also been on the front lines of natural health, cooperating with a broad spectrum of other consumer groups to advance preservation of federally recognized homeopathic medicine; to oppose dangerous exposure to radio-frequency radiation; and to preserve access to innovative healthcare modalities, including energy medicine.
Mr. Turner also represented healthcare professionals fighting anti-competitive federal and state trade rules. He played a key role in mainstreaming the practice of acupuncture and served as lead attorney on a petition to the FDA that resulted in the classification of acupuncture needles as medical devices “safe for general use” by trained acupuncture practitioners, and in legalizing the importation and distribution of acupuncture needles in 1996.
He persuaded the Federal Trade Commission to cease its investigations targeting chiropractic care. He represented dentists ordered by state licensing boards to withhold information from their patients about the effects of mercury in dental amalgam fillings, including risks to patients, dental workers, and the environment. Mr. Turner’s original advocacy was ultimately vindicated by a Food and Drug Administration Safety Communication on dental amalgam in 2020.
Mr. Turner served as a consumer consultant to and sat on advisory boards and committees of governmental agencies and business groups, including the Food Safety Council, Americans for Homeopathy Choice, the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herbal Products Association, and Voice for HOPE (Healers of Planet Earth).
In addition to The Chemical Feast, Mr. Turner was the co-author of Making Your Own Baby Food and of Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life, and was responsible for numerous articles, book chapters, speeches, and lectures.
Mr. Turner was a graduate of The Ohio State University, which he attended on a U.S. Navy scholarship, and served in the OSU Student Senate for three years. He received his law degree from The Ohio State University College of Law (now Moritz College of Law), where he served as Chief Justice of the Moot Court. Between undergraduate school and law school, Mr. Turner was a Lieutenant on active duty in the U.S. Navy, where he graduated with distinction from Naval Justice School and served as a Nuclear Weapons Handling Officer and Gunnery Officer aboard the U.S.S. Purdy and the U.S.S. Austin.
He founded small-press Potomac Valley Press, which published Healthy Harvest: A Directory of Sustainable Agriculture & Horticulture Organizations (1985-1989), and hosted an organic community garden at his Washington, D.C. home for more than 30 years.
Mr. Turner is survived by his his law partner and life partner of 45 years, Betsy E. Lehrfeld, Esq., his son Christopher B. Turner, Esq., and his daughter, Victoria M. Turner. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Mr. Turner consider donations to the Citizens for Health Education Foundation, https://citizens.org/donate-citizens-health-education-foundation/.
You can read Mr. Turner's full obituary here.