Read to the end for ways that YOU can help protect the natural health industry.
When our business first opened it’s doors as Basic Bulk & Natural Foods, all the way back in 1989, the natural health product industry in Canada was almost entirely unregulated. Of course, we had (and still have) laws in place in Canada that ensured the ingredients listed on a product’s packaging were, in fact, the ingredients inside that product. Otherwise, the industry was largely self-regulated.
Grass-roots learning occurred as information was passed from one individual to another. There was a culture of cooperation between those in the industry – whether manufacturers, retailers, or practitioners. There was integrity in the actions of individuals at every level, and a deep understanding that building each other up meant contributing to the success of the natural health industry as a whole. In turn, individuals in the industry were committed to their work and proud to raise awareness about alternative methods of healing.
During the 1990’s Health Canada attempted several times to enforce regulation of natural health products, but the industry and individual Canadians revolted. Everyone came together, and proved the community culture throughout the natural health industry was a valuable force! The petitioning, rioting, and overall lack of acceptance of natural health product regulations by the Canadian public made it near impossible for our government to enact the laws and regulation they sought to. The Canadian public’s voices had been heard!
Fast-forward to 2008
When I started working in the natural health industry in 2008, we were beginning to see the first inkling of government regulations come into effect in Canada. But, Canadians were still making their beliefs known! The introduction of Bill C-51 lead to some of the most targeted demonstrating in Canadian history. Public outcry stopped this bill – for a time.
Around this point, manufacturers in the natural health industry were made to comply with costly and time-consuming regulatory requirements in order to receive a Natural Product Number (NPN) for their products. Similar to a DIN (drug-identification number) given to drugs, applying for an NPN to sell a natural health product in Canada was now required. Additionally, we saw Health Canada raids of individual health food stores and other retailers. Manufacturers began to “sell-out” to conglomerates, and some cracks began forming in the community-culture within the natural health industry.
But, everyone was held together in their disapproval of Bill C-51.
Loss of International Products
On it’s face, requiring manufacturers to apply for NPNs doesn’t seem unreasonable. However, in practice, it meant that Canadians lost access to countless natural health products that they relied on for their wellbeing. American manufacturers were the first to give up on the Canadian market, and we saw those products quickly drop from our shelves in 2008. Many European brands followed.
Increased Costs of Natural Health Products
Another major consequence of NPN requirements was the additional costs carried by manufacturers to comply with the licensing process. This meant that the cost for an individual to purchase their supplement or natural health product increased steeply.
As you’re likely aware, natural health products are not covered by any government health care plan. So, the sudden price increases created an environment where more and more Canadians simply couldn’t afford to access natural health products, effectively limiting their freedom of choice.
How taxation played a part
To add insult to injury, this was around the same time our government decided that supplements should be taxed at a full 13% in Ontario, rather than carrying only GST at 5% as they had in the past. Taxes are often punitive for undesirable behaviours (think smoking and fuel consumption), so to many, it seemed health-conscious Canadians were being penalized for preventatively caring for their wellbeing. The excessive taxation of natural health products continues today.
Loss of Innovation
As the years passed into the early 2010’s, I personally began to notice more and more specific ingredients, and the products that contained them, had been denied approval for NPNs and were thus removed from the Canadian market. We saw the loss of Nattokinase, Magnesium Threonate, Huperzine A, and much more.
Further, in order to gain Health Canada approval, manufacturers were forced to alter effective product formulas, and in a number of cases, reduce the potency of their product. Unfortunately, many natural health product ingredients have yet to re-establish their place on the Canadian market to this day.
Due to the costly requirements of the NPN process, we have also seen less and less innovation over the last decade. Natural health products do not offer intellectual property rights, that is, they cannot be patented. As such, it is next to impossible for manufacturers to recoup the costs associated with the large studies required by Health Canada.
On a dozen occasions in the years since, I’ve personally been compelled to purchase an American products from across the border to meet my health needs. I know I’m not alone. This isn’t good for the Canadian economy to have Canadians seeking innovative and higher potency products from the US market.
Vague and Confusing Labelling
When I started in this industry you would see claims on product labels. To give a few hypothetical examples, you may have seen labels claim: “for the reduction of anxiety” or “effectively reduces blood pressure”. Whereas now, these same hypothetical products may be forced to use a claim like: “assists in the maintenance of good health”.
For the average Canadian, having clear labelling was beneficial and helped ensure they access the products that would have the most profound positive effects on their health. The limited label claims allowed under NPN regulations, has unnecessarily put doubt about the effectiveness of natural remedies into the minds of many Canadians.
Statistics show that individuals who access natural health products have better health outcomes than those who don’t. To ensure Canadians continue to use these remedies, we need free, uncensored access to information about natural health products.
Why Is Our Regulatory History Relevant Today?
When I discuss with individuals the possibility of natural health products and practices being restricted in Canada, I’m often met with “well, that would never happen here.” It’s important for us all to understand the ways government regulation has already impacted your individual access to scientific information, and effective natural products.
Early in 2018, Health Canada proposed yet another set of regulations that will further restrict Canadians’ access to natural health products and practices.
If you are an individual who disagrees with censorship, and believes in freedom of choice – NOW is your time to take action to protect your rights and freedoms!
Next week on our blog, we’ll be discussing Health Canada’s proposed regulations at length. Until then, we’re asking you to do three things:
- Review the Charter of Health Freedom that would enact into law Canadians’ right to sovereignty and freedom of choice in healthcare.
- Sign the petition asking our House of Commons to enact the Charter.
- You can sign the petition in-store at Healthoholics.
- You can download and print a paper copy of the petition here.
- Donate to the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA), who is a federal non-profit that we believe is doing important work to represent the belief in health freedom held by a majority of Canadians.
- You can contact NHPPA directly to donate one-time, or on an ongoing monthly basis.
- You can donate by completing a donation form in-store at Healthoholics.