Natural health products (NHPs) can be defined as vitamins, minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional medicines such as Traditional Chinese Medicines, probiotics, and other products like amino acids and essential fatty acids (e.g., Omega-3).
They are used by over 73% of Canadians and are seen commonly on the shelves in pharmacies and supermarkets. They are preferred over prescription drugs when it comes to treating minor ailments like lack of sleep, vitamin supplementation or hair fall.
How well are the regulations that control NHPs?
NHPs like prescription drugs are regulated by Health Canada. The Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD) receives applications for products as well as manufacturing, importing and packaging sites. As long as everything follows the regulations on paper, NNHPD grants a licence and a Natural Product Number.
Not all NHPs are created equal: Site audits
Did you know that only sites which have a bad history such as complaints in the past get audited? The majority sites are inspected irregularly and it may be years before an unfortunate consumer event triggers an inspection.
At Refine Naturals™, we ensure that our site in Toronto manufactures our product according to Good Manufacturing Practices.
Not all NHPs are created equal: Medicinal ingredients
A study done by University of Guelph titled “Herbal Products Omit Ingredients, Contain Fillers” tested 44 herbal products sold by 12 manufacturers. It showed that almost 60 per cent of the herbal products contained plant species not listed on the label, and more than 20 per cent included fillers such as walnut, rice, soybeans and wheat, which, again, were not on the label. This could lead to a severe or even fatal allergic reaction for anyone with a nut allergy. Supplements have been found to be adulterated with pharmaceuticals or pharmaceutical analogues, including new stimulants, novel anabolic steroids, unapproved antidepressants, banned weight-loss medications, and untested sildenafil analogues! Next time you glance the label, take it with a grain of salt!
At Refine Naturals™, we check our medicinal ingredients quantitatively as well as qualitatively so as to provide them as per the stated amounts on the label.
Not all NHPs are created equal: Raw materials
Given the multi-disciplinary nature of healthcare industry, raw materials and finished products are usually sourced from a different manufacturer. NNHPD requires that raw materials be tested for pesticides, heavy metals, microbial contaminants, solvent residues and other impurities. Again, the laboratories that do the testing are not required to be registered with NNHPD but operate by good will!
At Refine Naturals™, our raw materials are tested for impurities before and even after processing, a double check.
Not all NHPs are created equal: NPN number
All NHPs licenced to be sold in Canada need to display an eight digit NPN (Natural Product number) or DIN-HM (Drug Identification Number for Homeopathic Medicine). This means that the product has a licence and has been reviewed by the NNHPD. Also this Natural Product number helps you look into the NHP database (https://health-products.canada.ca/lnhpd-bdpsnh/index-eng.jsp). On this database you can see the officially approved claims, ingredients, warnings and cautions. You can also see the licence holder and the correct age group and dose for that product.
Source: Health Canada: Licensed Natural Health Products Database (LNHPD)
At Refine Naturals™, tracking our Natural Product Number will highlight the fact that our label does not deviate from what is approved by Health Canada.
Not all NHPs are created equal: Ordering online from another country
Many websites lead us to enticing NHPs which, however, are shipped from outside Canada. Is it safe to consume these? Regulations in the United States for example, do not require NHP sellers to apply for a licence before selling. In 2013, a weight loss supplement OxyElite Pro led to 97 cases of severe hepatitis and liver failure, resulting in 47 hospitalizations, three liver transplantations, and one death, before it was recalled. So far, nothing has been done by the US authority to prevent another supplement from causing organ failure or death. An easy way to know if the product is from outside Canada is the lack of a Natural Product Number.
Look into our blog on “How to read natural health product labels?” to find out if erroneous claims are misleading you.
At Refine Naturals™, we realize that not all natural health supplements are created equal. We concentrate our expertise in choosing quality and evidence backed medicinal as well as non-medicinal ingredients. We keep our labels and marketing practices compliant to advertising standards, so as to never mislead consumers in their decision making.
At Refine Naturals™: We believe “You Deserve Better than FINE!”
- The Natural Health and Organic Products Industry in Canada [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jun 23]. Available from: https://chfa.ca/en/Regulatory/advocacy-platform
- Health Canada. Final Report - Audit of the Management of the Natural Health Products Program [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2020 Jun 23]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/corporate/about-health-canada/reports-publications/audit-reports/2015/final-report-audit-management-natural-health-products-program.html#b34
- Study: Herbal Products Omit Ingredients, Contain Fillers | University of Guelph [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jun 23]. Available from: https://www.uoguelph.ca/news/2013/10/study_herbal_pr.html
- Cohen PA. Hazards of Hindsight — Monitoring the Safety of Nutritional Supplements. N Engl J Med. 2014 Apr 3;370(14):1277–80.