Holistic Nutrition & Prevention

Canadians could lose 90 per cent of natural health products

By Sari Huhtala

A friend shared recently that the lesions on his face caused by skin cancer treatments disappeared after using fresh aloe vera gel on them daily. Health Canada would like to put an end to that kind of risky behaviour, which is why they enacted a law last year that places natural health products (NHPs) in the same category as chemical pharmaceutical drugs. They’ve ordered the relabeling of every NHP on the shelf, and added exorbitant fees and fines that will ultimately cripple the natural health product industry.

Most Canadians don’t even know about the new law because the government slipped it in as a budget bill, so that Canadians couldn’t have a voice in the matter. Expect the price of NHPs to skyrocket, and, as some industry experts estimate, up to 90 per cent of products to disappear off the store shelves.

I don’t want my grandkids to grow up with limited to no access to natural health products, but they likely will, thanks to Health Canada’s new regulations. There is, however, a movement underway across Canada to have the law reversed.

Since 2004, under the Natural Health Products Regulations, NHPs have been licensed under traditional use. Health Canada provides the product authorization and site licencing in order for that product to be manufactured and sold. For example, oil of oregano has been licensed based on its efficacy over the last 5000 years used as a potent medicinal herb. Now, Health Canada wants to protect Canadians from possibly dying from the use of a natural product like oregano, so they lumped it in the same fold as chemical drugs like steroids.

Bill C-47 (the Budget Implementation Act) passed its third reading in Senate in June 2023, changing the definition of “therapeutic product” in the Food and Drugs Act to include natural health products (NHPs). The Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa’s Law) now applies to NHPs. (Vanessa Young died in 2000, at the age of 15, of a cardiac arrhythmia after taking the pharmaceutical Prepulsid® as prescribed by her doctor.) Since Bill C-47 was passed as a budget bill they didn’t need to consult with Canadians, despite the fact that 71 per cent of Canadians use NHPs. Sections 500-504 of the act deals with the government’s “Self Care Framework” that essentially places all natural products under the same umbrella as chemical drugs, and thus subject to the same rules.

Health Canada police can now order a label change or recall if they feel there are health and safety risks with any product, and slap a $5 million fine for non-compliance. They jacked the fines for non-compliance from $5000 (for mislabelling a product, or not having an NLP licence) to $5 million for health food stores, and employees who sell it, naturopaths, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, and manufacturers, etc.

Health Canada has implemented new fees on NHPs, which will make it financially challenging for many small- to medium-size product manufacturers to continue.

New labelling requirements and safety requirements extends to everything on the store shelves from plain old garlic supplements to oil of oregano, aloe vera gel, green superfood powder and natural balm. Every item on your health food store shelf will need to be relabelled under the new law. How many are coming back? How many will disappear forever?

Oil of oregano has long been used as a natural anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiviral, among other benefits. In fact, years ago, I published a healing story on a woman who healed severe psoriasis with oil of oregano topically and internally. Turns out fungus was taking over her body and was at the root of her crippling psoriasis. Even the medical doctors couldn’t figure that one out, but a natural health practitioner did by using live blood analysis, and prescribed oil of oregano. Under the new law, sections 500-504 of Bill C-47 (the Budget Implementation Act) oil of oregano now falls under the same category as steroids and subject to the same rules.

How far will Health Canada’s powers extend when natural health products are treated like pharmaceuticals? Under the Self-Care Framework even naturopaths, homeopaths and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners will lose access to the hundreds of NHPs they prescribe. How will they continue to provide services?

How soon will it be before Health Canada police roam local farmer’s markets, looking for an unsuspecting herbalist mom who is selling a natural balm that helps eczema, for example. I’m not sure how a farmer’s market vendor could shoulder the cost of a $5 million fine for selling that cream, but, that’s the law because, according to our government, Canadians need to be protected.

However, despite the law being passed last year, there is an effort across Canada to repeal sections 500-504 of the Act. In December 2023 a private member’s bill was tabled in the House of Commons and named Bill C-368, to repeal sections 500-504.

In the next couple of weeks, MPs will be voting on Bill C-368. If not repealed, NHPs will remain under the same class as chemical pharmaceutical drugs, and the natural health industry will crumble in Canada.

The Natural Health Products Protection Association is leading a nationwide campaign to stop the Self-Care Framework.

A quick and easy way to let your voice be heard is by signing the e-petition. Or send a letter to your MP, or call your MP.

Read discussion papers and more at https://nhppa.org/

Sari Huhtala is the creator, publisher and editor of Alive and Fit Magazine, which was created in 2007.  She has over 25 years of experience in journalism and over 15 years of experience as a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, and is a holistic chef, offering holistic cooking and edible wilds workshops. She is an organic farmer, wild-crafter and grandmother, who has spent over 20 years navigating a holistic, healthy path for her family.

Subscribe to our free Alive and Fit E-News!