Canadian industry continues supplements bill protests

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

The Canadian natural foods industry has embarked on a major
lobbying campaign, calling for an overhaul to legislation that
could place pharmaceutical controls on dietary supplements.

The campaign is aimed at addressing amendments to the Food and Drugs Act (Bill C-51). This bill will make it more difficult for dietary supplements to achieve natural health product status by subjecting them to costly pharma-style registration procedures. It also threatens to increase penalties for transgressors. The nation's Health Food Association (CHFA), a trade group for natural and organic products, has already stated that Natural Health Products (NHPs) are neither foods nor drugs and need to be considered as a separate category. As part of its new campaign, the group has testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health and met with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health. "While CHFA supports the government's commitment to ensuring Canadians are provided with foods and products that are safe and effective, our members cannot support legislation that categorizes NHPs as therapeutic products together with drugs and medical devices,"​ said Penelope Marrett, CHFA president and CEO. "This bill views NHPs through the lens of pharmaceutical drugs and that is just not right for consumers." Canadian regulations ​ Canada updated the way it regulates natural products in 2004 by introducing a Directorate that attempted to create a category for dietary supplements in their own right but its implementation has not been smooth.​ The Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) covers herbal remedies, homeopathic and traditional medicines, probiotics, amino acids and essential fatty acids, all of which have to be issued with a license before they can be sold. There has been some confusion over the NHPD, since a health claim based on ingredients means a product is a "natural health"​ product - even though it may also be marketed as food or drink. Health Canada had put the processing of these food and beverage license submissions on hold while it decided which jurisdiction these products should fall under. The C-51 Bill's advocates say it protects consumer safety and will not result in the removal of products from shelves. Protests ​However, industry says the amendments will further compromise the dietary supplements category and restrict consumer access to natural health products. Protest rallies have already been held in Alberta, British Columbia and Toronto. "Canadians want to have continued access and choice to high quality and effective Natural Health Products,"​ said Marrett last week. "The government has a responsibility to ensure that any amended legislation recognizes that NHPs are neither foods nor drugs. And that access to these important products will continue now and into the future to be available to Canadians working to achieve optimal health and well-being." ​ CHFA plans to continue the fight, with a major focus on education. MPs need to recognize that NHPs are low-risk products, it said. "We have had very positive meetings with government to date on this issue and have heard the Minister's support for Natural Health Products in the House of Commons,"​ said Marrett. "The fact is, we need the appropriate legislative and regulatory action to match these commitments and make sure we have a system that truly serves Canadians."

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