Natural Health Products and Supplemented Foods
Natural Health Products (NHPs) include:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Herbal remedies
- Homeopathic medicines
In 2004, NHP regulations came into force. At the time, about 40,000 natural products were on the market. Companies had to apply for NHP licenses so their products would comply with the new regulations. NHPs undergo a different review process than regular foods.
As of March, 2010, there were still about 10,000 NHPs for which a license application had been filed with Health Canada, but was not yet complete. Due to this backlog, Health Canada proposed a temporary rule to allow unlicensed NHPs to be legally sold for a 30 month period after coming into force. Some of these NHPs were in food formats. Examples include vitamins added to juice and power bars, and caffeine added to energy drinks. They have not been part of our current food intake monitoring processes, so there is limited data on how these products affect nutrient intake of the population overall or of at-risk groups such as children, youth, pregnant women and seniors.
Dietitians of Canada did not support the availability of NHPs in a food format nor the decision to temporarily legalize unlicensed NHPs in food format to be sold in Canada because:
We did not know what role these foods play in the nutrient intake of Canadians.
There is a risk some Canadians will consume excess vitamins, minerals and caffeine when NHPs are used in addition to other food and supplement sources.
NHPs in food format may contain additives that could interfere with certain medications.
When NHPs were in food format similar to other foods, they were not required to have Nutrition Facts tables.
Since 2012, these products have been moved to the authority of the Food Directorate under Temporary Marketing Authorization Letters (TMAL) and are now known as “Supplemented Foods”. Supplemented Foods are required to have Nutrition Facts tables. Currently, Health Canada continues to examine the safety and consequences regarding consumption of these products.
In 2009 and 2010, Dietitians of Canada prepared a brief and sent a letter about NHPs in food format to the Food Directorate and the Minister of Health.
Between 2011 and 2014, we submitted several briefs addressing consultation guidance prepared by the Food Directorate of Health Canada on the topics of Caffeinated Energy Drinks and Supplemented Foods.We have outlined our position in meetings with senior policy advisors to the Minister of Health and the Director General of the NHP Directorate.