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Natural health vendors wary
Some worried Bill C-51 would over-regulate products used for thousands of years
Sonja Puzic, Windsor StarPublished:†Monday, May 12, 2008
Some local producers and vendors of natural health products are concerned that their livelihoods may be at risk if recently introduced amendments to the federal Food and Drugs Act become law.
Bill C-51, tabled by the Conservative government in early April, focuses on the safety and monitoring of drugs, food and health products, from clinical testing to the way they are marketed to Canadians. If passed, it would give the federal government more power to order recalls of unsafe products and impose harsher fines for safety violations.
But critics say the bill would also over-regulate the sale and use of natural health products, such as vitamins, minerals, homeopathic medicines and herbal remedies. By replacing the word "drug" with "therapeutic product" throughout the act, Health Canada would have broader power over the natural health product industry.
DRASTIC IMPACT: Herbalist Anthony Pantalleresco of Herbs Plus and Beadworks on Ottawa Street is worried Bill C-51 would hamper the production and sale of natural health products.
Dan Janisse, Windsor Star
Anthony Pantalleresco of Herbs Plus and Beadworks on Ottawa Street says the legislation would have a drastic impact on millions of Canadians. "This won't just affect businesses or the industry, this affects anybody who uses herbs or spices or vitamins in any way, shape or form," he said. "Your right to choice is gone. Your right to make your own decisions, based on your own research and whatever you learned, is gone out the door."
Mable Cheung of Cheung's Trading Company on Wyandotte Street West said potential changes to the Food and Drugs Act are "a definite concern," but she hasn't studied Bill C-51 thoroughly yet. "We're watching this," she said. "We sell Chinese herbs ... that have been used for over 5,000 years."
According to an e-mail from a Health Canada spokesman, "Bill C-51 is not focused on natural health products and will not affect the manner in which these products are regulated in Canada.
"The standards of evidence for safety and efficacy that are in place for natural health products will not be affected by the new legislation," Stephane Shank wrote. "The risks and benefits associated with natural health products will continue to encompass factors that are unique to natural health products; including history of use, traditional uses and cultural practices."
Shank said the proposed legislation will not limit access to natural health products or require prescriptions for their use. He said such products will continue to be regulated under the same framework introduced in 2004, which includes provisions on licensing, labelling, clinical trials and reporting of adverse reactions.
Opposition to Bill C-51 is mounting on Internet forums, websites and blogs. Rallies are being organized in cities across the country.
But Alex Ledenac, owner of Nature's Health Consulting on Howard Avenue and member of the Canadian Health Food Association, said he doesn't fear an immediate impact on the natural health product industry in Canada, but expects heavier regulations -- and higher prices -- in the future.
"In 10, 15 years, you may be paying up the nose ... for alfalfa," he said.
Penelope Marrett, president of the Toronto-based CHFA, said there are misconceptions about what Bill C-51 proposes.