Calgary

Proposed natural health product rules worry Calgary stores

Proposed changes to the way vitamins, supplements and other non-prescription drugs are sold are worrying local health food stores.

Health Canada considers new rules for how products are tested and categorized

A customer at Community Natural Foods examines a product. (Dave Gilson)

Proposed changes to the way vitamins, supplements and other non-prescription drugs are sold are worrying local health food stores.

"It [can] potentially limit access to some products. It might also increase the price of some of those products," said Adam Martin, assistant general manager of Community Natural Foods.

Martin said there is already a safe and effective regulatory framework developed over the past decade for the so-called self-care products, which include natural health products and cosmetics.

"It has to be licenced by Health Canada before it can be legally sold in Canada and it has to have a natural product number," he said.

Adam Martin is the assistant general manager at Community Natural Foods. (Dave Gilson)

The federal proposal, which is still in the early stages, could mean new rules for how those products are tested and categorized.

"We want to ensure that there is an appropriate level of oversight for the potential risks associated with various types of products and that there is evidence to support claims that products do what they say they do," Health Canada said in a statement.

Officials said they may decide to rank products according to their risk to ensure safety and help consumers make informed decisions. 

They said the agency would continue to seek input as it reviews research and public feedback collected this fall.

This really feels like trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist.- Adam Martin, Community Natural Foods

Meanwhile, Community Natural Foods hosted its own town hall meeting last week, hoping to educate consumers on the current rules, rather than creating new ones.

"The most important thing to us as an industry and Community Natural Foods as a store is for people to recognize just how strong the current regulatory framework is," Martin said. 

"This really feels like trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist."

Martin said there are more than 100,000 licensed natural health products in Canada, and those products make up about one-third of business for Community Natural Foods.

"For us to be taking a step backwards at this point, as the industry is just starting to thrive in this new regulatory framework, seems a bit backwards," he said. 

Community Natural Foods customer Larry Bush wants to see more diligence on the issue. 

"There are supplements that are very good for people, but there needs to be education involved in it as well, so people know what they're doing with the product that they have," Bush said.

With files from Dave Gilson

now