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CHFA Responds to CBC Marketplace - Drugstore Remedies: Licence To Deceive

On March 13, 2015

After extensive consultation with experts and consumers across the country, The Standing Committee of Health decided in 1998 that natural health products (NHPs) are neither foods nor drugs. Based on this, a regulatory system was built which respects Canadians’ freedom of choice, cultural diversity and traditional use of NHPs. This pre-market approval process has positioned Canada as a global leader in the regulation of NHPs, and recognizes applying a pharmaceutical standard is inappropriate for this class of product.

The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) agrees the primary objective of Health Canada should continue to be managing the risks to Canadians using the most appropriate level of oversight for different products rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

The evidence requirements for NHPs are risk-based and reflect the low risk nature of these products. Evidence is assessed by Health Canada in order to ensure it supports the claim being made on the product label.

The Canadian “pre-market” regulatory approach requires manufacturers and distributors of NHPs to submit a product’s supporting evidence, health claims, ingredients and labelling to Health Canada before the product is licensed for sale in Canada.

CHFA wants to reassure Canadian consumers that they should be confident all NHPs licensed for sale in Canada, as identified on the label, are regulated by Health Canada under the Natural Health Products Regulations which follow a strict protocol to ensure consumer safety.

CHFA fully supports the Natural Health Product Regulations as a means to ensure Canadians have access to NHPs that are safe, effective and of high quality; this includes vitamins, minerals, probiotics and herbal remedies.

CHFA believes Canadians should continue to have access to NHPs that respect the traditional and cultural beliefs and practices that have been in place, in some cases, for thousands of years. It is also important to acknowledge the role that health care practitioners play in the oversight and management of Canadians’ usage of NHPs.

All NHPs that have been reviewed and approved by Health Canada for sale in Canada have an 8-digit Natural Product Number (NPN). Each licensed product has a unique NPN, like a barcode, which is found on the product label. Additional information is also publicly searchable on Health Canada’s Licensed Natural Health Products Database, including ingredients, recommended use and references.