Longtime California statehouse and now Congressional figure Tom McClintock’s wife Lori died in December, and newly acquired coroner’s report findings suggest an odd mulberry leaf remedy was likely to blame, bringing scrutiny on the highly unregulated dietary supplement industry.
Folks who were around for that strange 2003 recall of Governor Gray Davis, which brought us an odd period where actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, might remember the third-place finisher in that race, Tom McClintock. McClintock was at the time a California state Senator in the Santa Barbara area. In 2008, he moved to the Sacramento Valley area to run for Congress, won the seat, and has served as the California 4th District representative ever since. His wife Lori passed away in December. Her cause of death was never revealed.
But it was determined back in March, in coroner's findings that have remained secret. Until now, that is, as the Bay Area News Group reports that her death is being blamed on a dietary supplement containing mulberry leaves. That report notes that her passing “was a result of dehydration resulting from stomach and/or intestinal inflammation, which, in turn, was attributed to her ingestion of mulberry leaves.”
The coroner’s report itself was obtained by Kaiser Health News, which raises alarms about the risks of the largely unregulated dietary supplements industry. While drugs and prescription therapies are very strictly regulated through an arduous FDA process (as any parent of a kid under 5 who wanted to get them vaccinated for COVID can tell you), supplements still represent more of a Wild West arena.
"Many people assume if that product is sold in the United States of America, somebody has inspected it, and it must be safe. Unfortunately, that's not always true," Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said on the Senate floor when introducing the Dietary Supplement Listing Act of 2022 in April.
Supplement industry lobbyists, unsurprisingly, are pushing back. "It's completely speculative. There's a science to this. It's not just what a coroner feels," Natural Products Association CEO Daniel Fabricant told Kaiser Health News. "People unfortunately pass from dehydration every day, and there's a lot of different reasons and a lot of different causes."
On one hand, adverse effects of mulberry leaves are extremely rare. Lori McClintock’s death is the only one attributed to that herb in the last ten years, and there have only been about 150 reported illnesses. But in era where you have Alex Jones hawking supplements with toxins, and Tucker Carson selling testicle tanning devices, it’s fair to consider how amok we should be allowing this industry to run.
Image: SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 7: Senator Tom McClintock, surrounded by his wife Lori and daughter Shannah (13) talks to supporters at a private party after his concession speech to newly elected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 7, 2003 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Lezlie Sterling/Getty Images)