Natural Health Products Face Uncertain Future Amid New Health Canada Regulatory Changes
According to a recent proposal, the Canadian Government is set to impose stifling regulations on Natural Health Products. Starting in 2025, Health Canada is changing its labelling requirements and imposing significant costs on business owners, in the form of product evaluation, site licensing, and right-to-sell fees. According to a survey performed by the Canadian Health Food Association, these changes are so significant that 1 in 5 brands is considering leaving the country because of this increasing red tape.
If you’re like most Canadians, you may have never heard the term “Natural Health Product.” For those unfamiliar with the term, Health Canada defines Natural Health Products (NHPs) as “naturally occurring substances that are used to restore or maintain good health.” NHPs are a broad class of commercial products, comprising everything from vitamins, minerals, and other supplements to natural toothpastes, sunscreens, and shampoos to homeopathic and traditional Chinese medicines. 71% of Canadians use NHPs as part of a proactive wellness regimen.
Given the precarious state of the Canadian healthcare system, the last thing our country needs is a chokehold on an industry which aids in the prevention of chronic illness and helps keep our citizens healthy. But it’s possible that these proposed changes, which we will review in detail in this article, will make it harder, not easier, for Canadians to live healthy lives.
The History of NHP Regulation in Canada
Natural Health Products in Canada are already heavily regulated. Oversight of NHPs is performed by the Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD) under the Natural Health Products Regulations (NHPR), which came into effect in 2004.
Every NHP sold in Canada must first be approved by Health Canada before being given a Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM). Health claims associated with any product must be backed by high-quality scientific evidence to ensure safety and efficacy of the ingredients. In other words, not just anything can make it onto Canadian shelves. There’s already a significant barrier to entry, which keeps Canadians safe and prevents snake-oil from making it into the marketplace.
Understanding the Regulatory Changes on the Horizon
In a bid to finance NHP regulation, the government plans to institute significant user fees to be paid by NHP vendors. In plain English, the government will force any Canadian company manufacturing or importing NHPs to pay a minimum annual site-licensing fee of 20 thousand dollars. And that’s just the fee for a “site licence.”
Companies trying to bring any new products to market – which are called class III novel applications – will have to pay fees as high as $58,332.00. This is, of course, a massive disincentive to innovation in the industry and will likely deter brands from bringing unique, innovative products to Canadian shelves.
In addition to the fees above, any licensed sellers of NHPs will be required to pay $542.00 annually for every Natural Product Number they own. That sum of money may not seem like much, but for companies which offer hundreds of products, these costs quickly rise into the tens of thousands of dollars per year.
In addition to these cost changes, Health Canada is also instituting extensive labelling requirements for all NHPs. This may seem like a good idea on first glance, but according to a survey by the Canadian Health Food Association, the labelling guidance document is overly technical, difficult to follow, and is likely to make labels harder, not easier, to read and understand. In addition to the issue of consumer understanding, these requirements will also greatly increase packaging sizes – which has nontrivial economic and environmental implications.
What do These Changes Mean for Consumers and Businesses?
In light of these regulations, many brands may find it necessary to re-evaluate their product lines and potentially drop products that become unprofitable due to the new costs. With less supply but equal demand, these changes will likely mean higher prices for consumers and less variety on store shelves. You’ll still be able to buy your favourite supplements, but chances are they’ll be more expensive, and many consumers will simply buy their supplements online from international vendors.
For businesses, these changes could make it difficult to stay in the Canadian market. In fact, a recent economic impact study found the following:
- 76% of brands indicate a high chance they might need to remove products from the market due to these regulations.
- 1 in 5 companies are considering leaving the Canadian market due to the regulatory burden.
- 66% of companies believe it will negatively impact employment.
It's not just the current players in the Canadian market that will be impacted. New and exciting products, as well as international brands, now face a potent deterrent from entering the Canadian market. While Health Canada’s stated aim is to recoup costs associated with regulatory activities, it’s possible these regulations will have the unintended side-effect of driving some NHPs out of Canada altogether.
The Canadian healthcare system is in a precarious state. Our hospitals are stretched to their limits, medical staff are reaching the point of burnout, surgical wait times are at an all-time high, and our collective health outcomes have never been worse.
What does it say about our governmental agencies that they have chosen this pivotal moment to enact regulations that are likely to limit consumer choice and stifle small businesses? These measures, ironically, threaten to harm the very citizens they purport to protect, those striving to take control of their own health.
What's more, these regulatory changes are unfolding against the backdrop of the COVID-era, in which massive pharmaceutical companies pocketed an estimated $100 billion in revenue from government-mandated vaccines in 2022 alone. As stringent regulations suffocate the Natural Health Products industry, it's worth questioning with whom the priorities of Canadian Health Officials truly lie.
At TWC, we’re committed to doing everything in our power to uphold consumer choice, protect small businesses, and preserve the NHP Industry in Canada. That’s why we pledge to donate a portion of proceeds from every sale towards initiatives that support the industry.
What You Can Do
Learn more about the proposed regulations first-hand so that you’re armed with all the facts relevant to the issue. Visit SaveOurSupplements.com and send a letter to your local MP. Lastly, share this article and spread the word on social media using the hashtag #saveoursupplements.