Sask. business owner encouraging natural health product users to fight feds’ proposed regulatory changes

Janine Favreau speaks at the Legacy Lunch at the Coronet Hotel on Mar. 6, 2020. -- Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

A Prince Albert business owner is raising alarm over the federal government’s proposal to give Health Canada more regulatory power over natural health products.

“People are irate; they’re absolutely irate,” said Janine Favreau, owner of Nutters Everyday Naturals.

“It’s taking away our rights to look after our health.”

Bill C-47 implements the government’s key commitments in the 2023 budget, tabled in March. Under this bill, Canada has proposed that Health Canada regulate natural health products the same as pharmaceuticals.

This would give Health Canada the power to recall products, modify packaging, increase fines and penalties and disclose business information if a product has the potential to cause serious health issues.

“These changes would protect the health of Canadians by enabling regulators to take stronger action when health or safety issues are identified with natural health products on the market,” reads the budget.

But Favreau thinks this proposal would do the opposite.

“We’ve got health care providers that are leaving or are overloaded, and this takes some of the burden off of the health care system,” she said.

“You wake up in the morning and you’ve got a bladder infection, well there’s a wonderful supplement that works extremely well for bladder infections, as an example. That individual doesn’t have to go and see a doctor to get a prescription.”

According to 2016 data from Health Canada, 71 per cent of Canadians use natural health products, such as vitamins, probiotics, herbs and homeopathic remedies.

Favreau said she’s noticed more people turning to these treatments since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and believes that number would be much higher now.

The amendment would also include topical products, such as natural toothpaste, deodorant and sunscreen.

The Herald reached out to Health Canada for a response to these concerns, but did not hear back by deadline.

“My customers coming in, where they would normally be able to buy all their needs, may only be able to buy one in five of what they were accustomed to buying,” said Favreau.

“If this takes place, it will drive many manufacturers, small business, and eventually health care practitioners out of business.”

According to the budget, the government is looking to amend the Food and Drugs Act, adding the regulatory powers under the Protecting Canadians From Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa’s Law) to natural health products.

Vanessa’s Law is named after Vanessa Young, who died in 2000 from the prescription drug Prepulsid. Campaigns led Health Canada to start requesting safety data from hospitals and industry about pharmaceuticals, which came into effect in 2019.

Favreau said customers have been bringing up the possible changes.

“They’re signing petitions; they’re writing their MPs; they’re sending letters to the minister of health in parliament,” she said.

“People are concerned and upset and it is the people standing up for our rights that is going to be needed to fight this.”

Bill C-47 passed its third reading in the Senate. The bill has received royal assent and is expected to become law.