Fifty years ago, when the current compliance and enforcement portions of the Food and Drugs Act came into effect, the natural health products most likely found in Canadian homes were vitamin C and cod liver oil.
Times have changed and today, Canadians have access to a wide variety of natural health products. With this increased choice comes an increased challenge to ensure our product safety laws keep up with the times.
In last October’s Throne Speech, the government announced plans to introduce “measures on food and product safety to ensure that families have confidence in the quality and safety of what they buy”. Legislation (Bill C-51) that seeks to modernize and amend the Food and Drugs Act was introduced in early April 2008.
Since then, there have been rumours and false accusations about the impact of Bill C-51. Despite what you might read on the Internet or hear on the street, Bill C-51will not change the way natural health products are regulated in Canada. The Natural Health Products Regulations, introduced in 2004, will continue to operate the same way under the new legislation as they have for the last four years.
There is nothing in Bill C-51 that will change the way we buy our vitamins. A doctor’s prescription for vitamins will not be required. The notion that the Bill will remove 75 per cent of natural health products from the market through the use of strict risk / benefit standards is also false.
In fact, Bill C-51 will complement and support current policies for natural health products. The intention of the Bill and the Regulations is to facilitate access to safe and effective natural health products rather than keep them from Canadians.
Health Canada regularly issues warnings about mislabelled products or products that have serious adverse reactions. For example, liver toxicity has been associated with the use of a black cohosh product that was found to contain a species of the plant different than the one stated on the label. There have also been cases where a natural health product makes a completely unfounded health claim – the ability to cure cancer or SARS for example.
The increasing number of imported products and ingredients from foreign countries will require oversight to ensure product safety and quality for Canadians. Without Bill C-51, Canada would not be able to require the recall of products even in situations when there are clear health and safety concerns. With Bill C-51, the federal government will have the power to automatically remove dangerous products from store shelves when a company fails to act.
I am a firm believer in the value of natural health products and I am confident that this legislation will continue to provide myself, my family and all Canadians with access to safe, reliable natural health products that live up to the claims of their manufacturers and retailers.
Bill C-51 is in the early stages of the Parliamentary process and it still must undergo scrutiny and review in the House of Commons and at the Standing Committee on Health. Should you wish additional information, a fact sheet on natural health products and Bill C-51 can be found on the Healthy Canadians website: http://healthycanadians.ca/pr-rp/billC-51_e.html
Please contact my Constituency office for assistance on federally related matters, postage free at: #6, 4612 – 50th Street, Ponoka, T4J 1S7 tel: (403) 783-5530; toll free: 1-800-665-0865 or visit my web site: www.blainecalkinsmp.ca