Pubdate: Friday, March 26, 1999
Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Page: A6
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star
Author: Tim Harper, Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau


Federal Office To Study Booming Natural Health Industry

OTTAWA - Health Minister Allan Rock is set to announce a major
overhaul of legislation dealing with natural health products,
promising Canadians more choice and more rigorous testing of many of
the claims by their manufacturers.

Rock will announce in Toronto today that the federal government will
spend $7 million over three years for a new Office of Natural Health
Products. Ottawa will also spend $3 million over three years on
research into so-called herbal remedies and alternative medicines.

The minister said the new health products office will provide Canadian
consumers with the choice of a ``full range'' of products.

Rock was responding to the November report of the parliamentary health
committee, which made 53 recommendations dealing with the safety and
availability of herbal remedies

By establishing the new office, the federal government will put
so-called herbal remedies or alternative medicines into a
classification of their own, acknowledging that they are neither food
nor drug under the Food and Drug Act.

Thousands of products will be regulated and their beneficial powers
tested, health officials said.

Best known among the big-selling remedies are echinacea, which claims
to ward off colds and infection, a depression remedy known as St.
John's Wort and ginkgo biloba, an Asian product said to sharpen the

An anti-cellulite remedy on the market will now have to prove that it,
indeed, removes cellulite under the new regulations, one official said.

The more fantastic the claim, the more rigorous the testing, he

``If it's claiming to cure cancer, it's going to have prove it beyond
a doubt,'' one official said.

The natural health products industry grossed up to $2 billion in 1997,
a year during which 56 per cent of Canadians reported taking one or
more natural products. Sales are growing 15 per cent per year.

More than two-thirds of those who use such products reported taking
vitamins or mineral supplements.

The new regulations cover traditional herbal medicines, traditional
Chinese remedies, East Indian and native North American medicines,
homeopathic preparations and vitamin and mineral supplements.

Rock has promised that many of these products will be examined through
a ``new, culturally sensitive lens.''

Although the Liberal members of the committee said they felt their
recommendations balanced the health of consumers while respecting
their right to access to those products, New Democrats and Reformers
on the committee disagreed.

NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre) said the report's
main failing was in protecting the safety of Canadians, while Reform
MP Grant Hill (Macleod) said the report didn't deal with the red tape
that often delayed or prevented approval of products.

Hill said over-regulation will drive up the price for natural

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