Health Canada’s War on Natural HealthDavid W. Roland February 1, 2012
Fraudulent Licensing Scheme Puts Thousands of Natural Health Products at Risk
For the past several years, Health Canada has been quietly removing thousands of entirely safe dietary supplements from the market. These product restrictions are now becoming more aggressive. Health food stores are not able to stock their shelves with as many specialty formulations nor as many brand names as they used to. Soon our product choices may be reduced to about one-third of what they are now. Products unique to health food stores are disappearing, while those available in pharmacies appear untouched. Under the guise of protecting us from harm, Health Canada is actually causing harm by depriving some of us of safe products that we depend on for our health and well-being.
All of the products targeted for elimination are innocuous substances, some of which have been safely used for centuries, and some probably for millennia. Garlic, echinacea, cayenne, ginkgo, milk thistle, hawthorn, cascara sagrada, eyebright, mullein, tumeric and horehound are but a few examples. The complete list is virtually endless, because Health Canada intends to eliminate every product for which suppliers make “unapproved” health claims – including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein powders, glandular concentrates, essential fatty acids, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. It is not the product itself with which Health Canada is taking issue, it is the manner in which the product is being documented and promoted. Every dietary supplement is a candidate for elimination, depending on who is selling it and how successful that company is at jumping over Health Canada’s hurdles.
To further its agenda, Health Canada has concocted a licensing scheme to weed out what it considers to be undesirable products (or undesirable suppliers). What typically happens is that some brands of a completely safe vitamin, herb or enzyme are assigned Natural Product Numbers (NPN licences) while other brands of identical products are denied licences, simply on the basis of technicalities – such as filing the application too late or not supplying documentation acceptable to Health Canada. Single ingredient products are more likely to receive licences than are the complex, specialty, or novel formulations typically sold only in health food stores. Some products are being restricted simply because Health Canada is not able to keep up with its backlog of licence applications.
The simplest way that Health Canada takes a product off the market to is to refuse to grant an NPN licence for it. This happens behind the scenes, on a product-by-product basis, without either retailers or the public knowing about it. The second method (also behind the scenes) is to peruse websites looking for unlicensed products, then to send a letter demanding that the supplier no longer sell the products in question. One such letter demanded that the company immediately stop selling 25 of its products, the majority of which are innocuous, traditional herbal teas used to treat constipation, congestion, breathing relief, urinary flow, bladder control, and other non-life threatening conditions. The third method is one that Health Canada has not yet dared to use: that of raiding health food stores to take products off the shelf. To go to this extreme would risk a public outcry.
Health Canada’s war on the health food industry relies on the propagation of two falsehoods: (1) that dietary supplements are potentially unsafe, and (2) that Health Canada has the legal right to regulate health products. Health Canada first creates a false fear, then imposes itself as the remedy for that imaginary fear.
Dietary supplements are among the safest substances on the planet, safer than foods. In the entire 50+ year history of the health food industry, there have been zero fatalities caused by consuming any of its products. As a comparison, several people die each year from food poisoning, or from anaphylactic shock from eating peanuts.
To justify its stranglehold over dietary supplements, Health Canada distorts the concept of “safety” to suit its purposes. Officials often state that they “have concerns about” or are “not convinced of” a product’s safety, and offer such speculation as sufficient grounds for depriving us of that product. This is a nonsensical argument that defies logic, science, and jurisprudence by reversing the burden of proof. It is impossible to prove the absence of anything. We can only document that which in fact exists. If Health Canada believes that a substance is harmful, then they must provide proof that this is so. In the absence of such proof, the substance in question must be presumed safe. This is the same principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty upon which our entire legal system is based.
Under the guise of protecting the public and by means of its questionable licensing scheme, Health Canada is attempting to restrict from the market any dietary supplement that they have not blessed with an NPN licence. Rumour has it that only 20,000 product licences have been granted out of the 60,000 products that were on the market when the licensing scheme began. Health Canada is refusing to license entirely safe products, for reasons that defy both science and logic.
What Health Canada does not want you to know is that the NPN licensing scheme is unlawful. There is no Act of Parliament (i.e., no statute law) that gives Health Canada the legal authority to regulate health products. The Constitution Act, 1867 gives to the federal government jurisdiction over crime but not over health, which is the exclusive domain of the provinces. Further, the Natural Health Product Regulations have never been sanctioned by Parliament, nor have they ever been reviewed by the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee (SREG).
Health Canada restricts true health claims for safe dietary supplements. It doesn’t matter what textbooks or research may say, it doesn’t matter how many third party testimonials you can provide, if Health Canada doesn’t like the claim, you can’t make it. This is an act of censorship, in violation of the “freedom of thought, belief, and expression” guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Health Canada takes the following unreasonable (and unlawful) positions:
(a) that it bestows upon suppliers the privilege of staying in business,
(b) that any product it has not examined must be presumed unfit for sale, and
(c) that any claim it does not approve must be presumed to be fraudulent. Whether Health Canada is acting out of ignorance or malice does not really matter. The resulting devastation is the same. I find it ironic that Health Canada is committing fraud in the name of preventing fraud.
Take Action to Protect Your Access
Natural Health Freedom Canada needs your help to derail Health Canada’s fraudulent licensing scheme. If your health has suffered in any way by not being able to access supplements that are no longer available, or if you have had to pay higher prices for alternatives to products that have been taken off the market, please send a detailed letter to NHFC at firstname.lastname@example.org (website: http://www.naturalhealthfreedomcanada.com)
And the Dietary Supplement Protective Union is uniting suppliers who have had it with Health Canada’s unlawful regulations and are not going to comply any more (http://www.dspu.ca). You can aid this “peaceful noncompliance” movement simply by encouraging your local health food store to continue to stock your favourite products, whether or not these products have been assigned NPN numbers.