CHFA disputes report that new law will lead to deceptive labeling

TORONTO The Canadian Health Food Association on Tuesday took exception to a Globe and Mail report published Monday that suggested dietary supplement manufacturers will soon be able to run roughshod over Health Canada in making disease state claims on behalf of dietary supplements.

“The changes to the federal rules, which take effect June 1, represent a significant boost for the natural health industry, which is eager to increase its credibility and capitalize on a booming market for vitamins and botanical supplements by directly marketing their health claims to consumers,” Carly Weeks writes for the Globe and Mail. “But medical experts and consumer advocates warn the federal government’s decision could result in a flood of deceptive claims about natural health products that are backed up by inadequate or even flawed scientific evidence.”

“The article … misinformed the reader into thinking Health Canada was at the mercy of natural health product manufacturers,” complained CHFA president and chief executive officer Penelope Marritt in a letter-to-the-editor, addressed to the Globe and Mail, and posted on the association’s web site. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

At question are some revisions made to Canada’s Food and Drug Act that will allow manufacturers to apply to Health Canada to make claims they have not been able to make in the past, such as “helps in the prevention of cancer,” for example. “Modifying Schedule A gives natural health product suppliers the ability to apply to Health Canada to make treatment, prevention and/or cure claims for certain disorders and diseases,” Marritt wrote. “Natural health suppliers must continue to meet product licensing requirements under the Natural Health Products Regulations and at the same time, continue to substantiate any preventative claim with sufficient levels of evidence.”

Consequently, consumers are still protected from fraudulent product claims and encouraged to seek appropriate medical treatment for serious conditions, Marritt argued.

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