Despite Health Canada’s widespread regulation of the Natural Health Product industry, there are products being sold that have been overlooked in the initial definition of what is and is not a natural health product (NHP).
Various products that fall under the definition of a food have been under scrutiny for fortifying snacks and drinks with levels of vitamins and minerals that are not permitted by the Food and Drug Regulations. The addition of these ingredients would make such products NHPs, and amendments to the existing regulations have yet to be addressed, even though awareness of the issue has been known for over two years.
The chief of Health Canada’s nutrition evaluation division, Nora Lee, released the following statement of this oversight: “This legal loophole continues to have a significant potential to impact on the ability to administer the provisions of the Food and Drug Regulations with respect to foods.”
Health Canada’s food regulations control the amount of vitamins and minerals that can be added to drinks and foods, but companies are using this oversight by classifying vitamin-fortified products as NHPs. The current food regulations have imposed a limit on the amount of nutrients that can be added to foods, to ensure the safety and integrity of the foods, and to prevent adverse effects from the overconsumption of certain nutrients.
The 2004 Natural Health Product Directorate regulations were established to cover herbal products and traditional medicines, but also oversee the addition of vitamins or minerals to beverages and candy-like products with the intention of providing a beneficial effect. This issue will require the review of what are commonly considered “foods”, in order to adequately monitor the production of “food-like” NHPs.
There are currently around 700 different “food-like” natural health products that are routinely sold in grocery stores in Canada. Due to this loop-hole, they are not required to provide any nutritional labelling information that is mandatory for food products, as they are no longer regulated as “foods”.
In a statement to Postmedia News on Wednesday, Health Canada said it “will continue to explore how best to manage these products in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians and ensure that Canadians can continue to make informed choices about the products that they buy.”
“In the interim, Health Canada continues to review its approach to regulating natural health products in food formats.”
For assistance in this matter or other regulatory issues, please contact our experts at Dicentra.
Dicentra is a leading international regulatory and scientific consulting firm with specialized expertise in the areas of natural health products, dietary supplements, OTCs, foods and cosmetics. We can be reached at 1-866-NHP-EASY or firstname.lastname@example.org