Bill C-51- The Minister of Health clarifies changes to the Food and Drug Act

Thank you for your expression of concern about natural health products (NHPs) and the modernization of the Food and Drugs Act, known as Bill C-51. I am pleased to have this opportunity to respond.

Recently, there has been misinformation circulating among the numerous Canadians who use NHPs. There are some within the industry who do not want to be regulated at all, and who are trying to scare people to achieve their political goal. I want to set the record straight.

Rumours about price increases or restricted availability of NHPs because of Bill C-51 are false. Please be assured that I own no shares in any pharmaceutical company. An inspector will still require a search warrant to enter any private dwelling, as is the case now. Allegations that NHPs will have to be prescribed by doctors, or that the Government is targeting NHPs for inspections or fines, are untrue. The compliance policy in use for the last four years will continue unchanged. Bill C-51 will not make it more difficult to license NHPs, which have been regulated as a unique category (not food or drugs) since 2004. They will continue to be regulated in the same way when Bill C-51 becomes law.

Since introducing the Bill earlier this year, extensive stakeholder consultations were held, and we listened to concerns raised.

In order to include the ideas we heard, we are putting forward proposed amendments to Bill C-51 for discussion and consideration in the weeks ahead.

The intention of the Bill is to facilitate access to a wide array of safe and healthy products, including NHPs, not to keep them away from Canadians. It is also designed to protect consumers. For example, in the present legislation the maximum allowable fine is $5,000, which is not enough to deter those who would intend to harm consumers, so the Government is updating this. Currently, the Minister of Health has no power to recall harmful products, but Bill C-51 will give him this ability. Canadians want the Government to ensure that tainted products are found and recalled, that what is on the label is actually in the bottle, and that health claims are supported by evidence.

Responsible businesses have no cause to be concerned over Bill C-51; in fact, this Bill will “level the playing field” for businesses which now have to compete with less responsible entities. Gary Leong of Jamieson Laboratories stated to CBC Newsworld on Friday, May 9,2008, “When you’re looking at safety and efficacy and truth of advertising, yes, we’ re very supportive of Bill C- 51. “

For the first time, if the proposed amendments are adopted, NHPs would be defined within the Act as a “third” category apart from food and drugs. The proposed amendments will make it clear that regulations relating to drugs will not apply to NHPs. Another proposed amendment will make it clear that the type and amount of information required for NHPs will include traditional knowledge and history of use.

In addition, the proposed amendments will clarify the way in which inspectors must carry out their duties-in a reasonable way, having regard to lower levels of risk most often associated with NHPs.