The Natural Health Product Regulations were introduced by Health Canada in 2004 and were met with swift condemnation from proponents of alternative and natural health products. The reasons for this are numerous and can seem more and more complex as time goes on; however, we thought we’d put together some important talking points about the NHP Regulations to clear things up a bit.
- They are not about safety. The NHP Regulations are often espoused in mainstream media as being a bastion of safety regulations. In reality, the overwhelming majority of natural health products are completely safe and zero deaths have recorded due to them in Canada.
- They are not about good manufacturing processes. GMP standards have been in existence with regards to Canada’s natural health product industry for a very long time. Just as safety is not the primary concern for the regulations, so too is “trust” of these products primarily at stake in the NHP regulations. GMP standards ensure that what is on the label is inside the product and that harmful substances are not found in retail items. The NHP Regulations do not address these concerns because GMP standards do and they have done so for a long time.
- They are about big business edging out quality products from small and medium-sized manufacturers. The NHP Regulations operate under the guise of controlling the safety and certainty of products on the market by forcing manufacturers to prove health claims that they make about their products through clinical, scientific evidence. The catch-22 is that Health Canada forces the manufacturers to make a health claim in the first place that then must be proven. This process has little to do with safety and more to do with making manufacturers jump through unnecessary and expensive bureaucratic hoops in order to weed out the bigger corporations from the small ones.
- They limit the health options of Canadians. Ultimately, the expense of this arduous and redundant process makes it difficult for many manufacturers to remain either in business in Canada (putting Canadian jobs at risk in the process, we might add) or to export to the Canadian market. Prior to the NHP Regulations, many natural health products were imported from the United States, however this possibility has all but dried up with American manufacturers removing hundreds and thousands of products from what is deemed to be too small of a market to warrant such a bureaucratic hassle. As a result, Canadians have fewer choices in what they can purchase and much of what remains comes from big corporations which do not object to putting out products with inferior ingredients and fillers to increase profit margins.
- They put us at a greater risk of long-term chronic illness. It is a well-known fact that the medical industry shines when it comes to emergency, short-term situations but has a hard time addressing long-term chronic and especially degenerative health issues. Countless Canadians have turned to natural health products to ease their suffering or bounce back from what was once incurable illness as diagnosed by the medical industry. Limiting the options of Canadians when it comes to natural health products or creating an atmosphere which supports the creation of inferior products, it becomes clear that the NHP regulations are detrimental to the health of Canadians dealing with illnesses that the medical industry simply does not know how to deal with.
- They are not what the public asked for. In stakeholder meetings before the creation of the NHP regulations, it was made abundantly clear that Canadians were asking for more access to natural health products via these regulations and that putting a limit on access would serve as the opposite desirable outcome. Ultimately, our elected representatives were not heard by the entrenched bureaucrats at Health Canada and the NHP regulations rolled on out.