Joseph M. Bassett, the co-owner of two Bassett’s Health Food stores and a long time leader in the natural products industry, died on June 6th; he was 79 years old. According to his obituary, Bassett died of complications of a bladder and kidney infection.
He was a U.S. Army veteran who served honorably during the Korean War. Bassett and his wife Patricia started Bassett’s Health Foods in 1969, bringing vitamins and supplements to the Toledo, Ohio area. The retail outlet also offered a range of private label products, with formulas developed by Bassett using his knowledge of nutrition. He was trained and licensed in nutritional and massage therapies.
He was also vigorously involved in supporting consumer access to dietary supplements, actively participating as a member of the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA, now the Natural Products Association, or NPA).
During Bassett’s first term as president of NNFA from 1993 to 1995, his leadership was critical in leading efforts to pass the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), which created a new regulatory paradigm for dietary supplements. During his second term as president, from 1997 to 1999, he continued to champion the industry’s goal of providing clear, substantiated information about the health benefits of supplements to consumers.
He was a founding member of the National Institute of Nutritional Education, president of the Mid-American Health Association, past chairman and current board member of Citizens for Health and a former member of the Board of Governors of the National Health Federation (NHF) and a current member of the NHF Advisory Board.
James Gormley, vice president and senior policy advisor of Citizens for Health (CFH), commented on Bassett’s many achievements:
“In 2010, Loren Israelsen told me that after the 1992 FDA raid of Dr. Jonathan Wright’s Tahoma Clinic for his treating patients with high-dose B vitamins, people began to think: ‘Wow, what are they prepared to do to stop us from taking vitamins.’ And this legitimate fear began to spread like wildfire across the country. On the grassroots side, Joe Bassett and the […] NNFA expanded an early incarnation of CFH in order to mobilize consumers and health-food stores against these threats. Along with Bassett were Jim Golick, Margaret Isely, Bonnie Minsky, Dr. Joan Priestley, Alex Schauss, Craig Winters and many others.”
Gormley added: “After the DHSEA victory, Sen. Orrin Hatch commented: ‘I want to cite the dedicated efforts of Citizens for Health, whose thousands of members have worked tirelessly and unselfishly to make this an informed and successful debate. There is no question in my mind that the work of this citizen army makes today’s victory possible.’”
“And that was a tribute to Joe Bassett, who was the force majeure behind these efforts. In recent years, Joe rejoined the board of Citizens for Health, and he became an inspiration today for a whole new generation of health-freedom activists.”
“Of all of the industry leaders I have met, Joe had the most love for the health-foods movement,” added Gormley.
“When health-freedom advocates would get together, Joe’s eyes would well up in tears out of joy and appreciation for the dedication to health justice and freedom that we all shared. But it was love and appreciation that we all felt back. And that love was for Joe Bassett, one of the greatest generals that grassroots advocacy ever had and one of health-food industry’s most effective, outspoken and powerful modern-day pioneers.”
Alexander Schauss, PhD, FACN, president and CEO of Puyallup, Washington-based AIBMR Life Sciences, Inc., and a co-founder of Citizens for Health, said:
“We have all lost a great spirit in the fight for health freedom. Joe was one of those rare people you meet in life one cannot forget. His spirit and achievements will live on for eternity. He was one of the most dedicated, committed, and supportive members of the natural products community [who] played [a central role] in bringing the industry and consumers together during the critical years of 1992-1994, resulting in the successful passage of DSHEA.”
“What characterized Joe Bassett most during those years was his tireless efforts to stop those who attempted to divide the industry for their own self-serving interests, and argue for the power of unity,” said Schauss. “He believed in the fundamental right of freedom of expression and the right to take care of one’s own health. He raised money to support that effort, never to enrich himself. ”
“As a co-founder of Citizens For Health (CFH) in 1991, and its first Executive Director, I remember when Craig Winters stepped aside as Chair and co-founder of the organization in March of 1992 to let Joe become Chair because Craig recognized Joe’s abilities and determination to bring people together nationwide. This brought several Midwest and East Coast citizen organizations together under one roof.”
“He brought people together to share a common desire to preserve our freedom of expression and the right to take care of their own health,” said Schauss.
“Joseph Bassett made a real difference in all of our lives,” Schauss observed, “and his spirit to protect health freedom will live on for eternity.”
“To lose Joe and just two years ago, Craig Winters, is a difficult blow to bear, as we all worked day and night for the same noble cause, as warriors for health freedom,” added Schauss. “The price of freedom is vigilance, as Joe would often say. He never stopped being vigilant, and hence why passage of DSHEA was only the beginning, not the end.”
“Joe has left an indelible mark on the hearts of many, as well as the entire industry he served so valiantly,” remarked Danny Wells, head of Vacaville, California-based natural products industry consultancy, Danny Wells & Associates.
Jim Turner, chairman of Citizens for Health, said:
“Joe Bassett was an inspiration to all who worked with him especially those of us at Citizens for Health. We will redouble our efforts for health freedom as a tribute to Joe and to his motivational leadership.”
Bassett is survived by his wife; three children, Joseph Jr., Sabrina and Charmaine; seven grandchildren; and three great grandchildren. The Bassett family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Nemenhah Press.