Natural health products are in peril

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

I am going to step outside my provincial realm today and write about a federal issue that has had me troubled for some time. It’s an issue I don’t believe is getting the attention it needs, and I feel it has huge implications for those of us who choose to take control or be proactive with respect to our personal health.

Health Canada is in the process of updating its approach to self care products which fall into three categories: cosmetics, natural health products (NHPs) and non-prescription drugs. NHPs include products like vitamins, minerals, probiotics, herbals, traditional and homeopathic medicines and some topical items like sunscreen and toothpaste.

The new framework proposes new fees to import, manufacture and sell NHPs as well as new labelling laws. Many natural health companies will not be able to afford to comply and they will be put out of business. Further, Health Canada is imposing new fees on businesses that sell NHPs which will force many small and medium-sized retailers to close their doors – think of our local natural food stores.

For those producers who survive this attack, they will have no choice but to pass on their increased costs to the retailers who will then have no choice but to pass those increases on to the consumer. With inflation at an all-time high, how do those on fixed incomes or the disadvantaged (some of the very folk who require these products the most) pay for their goods?

Natural health care practitioners I have spoken to, like naturopaths, are extremely concerned how they will be able to help their clients if they cannot access certain NHPs.

What’s worse is that Health Canada will use these new fees to establish an enforcement department to impose and police the new stricter regulations. It seems to me that Prime Minister Trudeau does not want us knowing the truth about NHPs or taking care of our own health. Producers of NHPs and practitioners will be prohibited from sharing truthful information about natural products. Fines for contravening the rules will be as large as $5 million a day – that’s not a punishment but rather a means to an end. Can you imagine the owner of one of our local natural food stores being fined $5 million for suggesting something as simple as Melatonin to help you get a better night’s sleep?

As the Natural Health Product Protection Association states: If you cannot be told a natural product can help you, the product might as well not exist. If you and your family cannot be told the truth, you cannot make crucial health decisions. All of these changes despite the fact government has not conducted fulsome consultation.

As I inferred at the outset, many folks, including myself, manage certain health concerns with NHPs. I know friends who manage serious conditions with vitamins and supplements. Legislation exists that afford “patients the right to make health care decisions that accord with their own values, wishes and preferences. This includes decisions to pursue complementary/alternative medicine either as an adjunct to conventional medicine, or instead of conventional medicine.” Why is the federal government seemingly breaking the law?

Health care is in crisis. We have a shortage of health care professionals, leaving patients on long waitlists. Why would government take away products that ease use of the health care system?

I am fearful the federal government is putting an end to natural health in Canada. Who are you and I harming by taking our vitamins?

Please get involved by visiting and sending a form letter to your Member of Parliament.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk