On June 25, 2021, Health Canada published a news release that announced proposed changes to the Natural Health Products Regulations. The proposed changes would directly affect natural health product (NHP) labelling requirements.
What are Natural Health Products?
As defined by Health Canada, natural health products are naturally occurring substances that are used to restore or maintain good health. They are often made from plants, but can also be made from animals, microorganisms, and marine sources.
A wide variety of NHP’s, such as vitamins, probiotics, and minerals, are used daily by many Canadians. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for these products, as consumers are becoming progressively self aware and are wanting to take more control of their own health.
Why Are Changes Being Proposed?
Health Canada is conscious of the growing usage of NHP’s among Canadians and is therefore trying to improve the understanding of NHP’s by proposing an amendment that will enhance plain language labelling. The goal of the amendment is to improve representation of key information on product labels to help consumers make more informed decisions.
The importance of labelling can be demonstrated by an online poll that was published by the Office of the Auditor General. The poll asked participants to rate different factors that influence the purchasing of NHP’s. The results of the poll identified that a product label was the second most important factor that influences consumer decisions, among other strong factors that were rated less significant, such as recommendations from family, and pricing.
What Are the Proposed Amendments?
The proposal by Health Canada includes four key elements that can be summarized below:
- A Product Facts Table:Includes important product information, such as warnings and directions for use, that would be presented in a standardized table.
- Clearly and prominently displayed label text:Rules would be introduced to improve NHP label legibility and readability (ie. minimum font size requirements).
- Labelling of food allergens, gluten, and aspartame:Priority food allergens, gluten and aspartame would be identified in the warning section of the label.
- Modernized contact information:A manufacturer may display either an e-mail address, telephone number or website instead of a postal address, as currently required.
If the proposal were to be registered as part of the Natural Health Products Regulations, there would be a transitional period of 3 years to allow NPN license holders to make the appropriate changes to product labels.
How to Participate in the Consultation
The public consultation for the proposal to improve natural health product labelling opened on June 26, 2021 and will close on September 4, 2021. Health Canada welcomes comments and feedback on the regulatory proposal from all interested parties.