Health Canada officials are debating whether to proceed with an appeal of a ruling in the case of an Alberta nutritional company that was acquitted on charges of selling its product without government approval.
Last month, Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd. was found not guilty of distributing Empowerplus — a product the company claims successfully manages mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder — without a drug identification number.
On Friday, Health Canada filed a notice of appeal in the case that argues the trial judge erred in accepting the company's defence of necessity.
A Health Canada spokeswoman, however, said Monday the government is simply buying more time to determine whether to proceed with the court action.
"If we think it's in the best interest of Canadians to appeal, then we will," said Jeannie Smith.
Company representatives said they were disappointed to learn Health Canada had filed a notice of appeal.
"Are they appealing the fact that they didn't hurt enough Canadians?" asked Anthony Stephan, one of Truehope's founders.
The comments follow a three-week trial this spring on a Food and Drugs Act charge that Truehope had sold its product without a DIN.
Health Canada argued the company had not submitted scientific evidence about the product's safety, effectiveness and quality, which is necessary to obtain a DIN and approval to sell a drug.
But a provincial court judge ruled the firm had no reasonable legal alternative to selling its Empowerplus without regulatory approval, accepting the defence's arguments that clients may have become ill or even died without it.
The company faced a maximum penalty of $500 if convicted, and Truehope officials said they would continue selling Empowerplus regardless of the outcome of the decision.
About 10,000 people around the world take Empowerplus— a combination of about 36 vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.