The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) is stepping up lobbying efforts to have the federal government amend controversial provisions of the proposed overhaul of the country’s Food and Drugs Act—as tabled in the Bill C-51 legislation put before the Parliament this spring—warning the new law would deprive Canadians seeking natural alternative to conventional pharmaceutical products, while doing irreparable harm to the country’s fast-growing, $2.5-billion nutraceutical industry.
“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 natural health products (NHPs) as therapeutic products together with drugs and medical devices,” states CHFA president and chief executive officer Penelope Marrett. “This bill views NHPs through the lens of pharmaceutical drugs and that is just not right for consumers.”
First tabled in early April and receiving its second hearing later that month, Bill C-51 is intended to modernize Canada’s regulatory system for foods, drugs and cosmetics, which has not been comprehensively updated since 1953.
However, the CHFA alleges that Health Canada has broken earlier promises to treat NHPs separately from the other designated “therapeutic products,” which include drugs, medical devices, cells, tissues, organs and veterinary drugs.
“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,” Marrett states.
“Canadians want to have continued access and choice to high-quality and effective natural health products,” says Marrett, arguing that Bill C-51 would wipe out much of the progress achieved with the introduction of the Natural Health Products Regulations in 2004, under which NHPs were classified as neither food or drugs.
CHFI is also worried that the increased enforcement powers contained in Bill C-51, as well as significantly higher fines and penalties for companies deemed to be running afoul of the revamped Food and Drugs Act, could have a dramatic negative impact on Canada’s fledgling natural and organic products industry, which includes growers, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and importers of vitamins, mineral supplements, herbal products, homeopathics, sports nutrition products, natural and organic foods, fibers and health-and-beauty aids.