An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session and the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.


Colin Carrie  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of March 9, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 1st, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
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Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health. Your committee has studied Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, which includes the definitions of “drug” and “food”, and requests an extension of 30 sitting days to further consider the bill.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 6th, 2005 / 12:50 p.m.
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Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour and privilege today of presenting a few hundred signatures from concerned voters across Saskatchewan from the Qu'Appelle and Regina areas. The petitioners call upon the House to enact Bill C-420, which will ensure that dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products will not be arbitrarily restricted as drugs.

They call upon the House to ensure that the freedom of Canadians to explore health care remedies remains with individual Canadians. They encourage all parliamentarians to enact Bill C-420 as quickly as possible.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 4th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
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Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to present petitions from across the country in support of my private member's Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Bill C-420 is now being studied by the Standing Committee on Health, and I am proud and humbled by the support I have received to date in my efforts to give Canadians greater choice in personal health care.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 4th, 2005 / 5:20 p.m.
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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from the residents of Don Valley West, petitioning for health freedom. The petitioners say that healthy medicinal foods, herbs, spices, dietary supplements and other natural health and nutritional products should be properly classified as foods. To do this, they are petitioning that Bill C-420 be enacted to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
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Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour of presenting a petition on behalf of a number of citizens who reside in my riding of Palliser, most of whom are from the city of Moose Jaw. These petitioners wish to call to the attention of Parliament the following: that Canadians deserve freedom of choice in health care products; that herbs, dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products should be properly classified as food and not arbitrarily restricted as drugs; and that the weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders through the judicious use of natural health products.

These petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to natural health products and restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
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Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is in support of the freedom of choice in making health decisions. These petitioners call on Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to non-harmful preventive and medicinal options. They therefore urge parliamentarians to enact Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 19th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
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James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also have some petitions here on Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, in favour of natural health products.

They are from Montreal, Lachute, Blainville, Laval, Quebec City, and from other francophones in la Belle Province.

They are also from Regina, Kipling, and Corning in Saskatchewan. The signatories are in favour of regulating natural health products as foods and not as drugs. People are calling for more freedom of choice in personal health care.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 19th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
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Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to present petitions from across the country in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. The bill is a response to the frustration of Canadians by the overregulation of natural health products and will give Canadians the right of choice in their personal health care.

Bill C-420 will be studied in the coming weeks by the Standing Committee on Health. I am proud and humbled by the support I have received to date in my efforts to give Canadians greater choice in personal health care.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 18th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
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Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition to present on behalf of my constituents. These petitioners are primarily from Three Hills, Linden, Carbon and Bashaw. They call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to natural health products and to restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting private member's Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 5th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
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Dale Johnston Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the third petition, the petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to non-drug preventative medicine options as well as information about these options and to sanction the personal choice of Canadians by clarifying the currently vague definition of food and drug in the outdated 1927/1952 Food and Drugs Act by repealing the outdated provisions against making truthful health claims for the prevention, treatment and cure of health challenges and non-drug approaches by enacting Bill C-420.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 6:30 p.m.
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Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. members for their remarks in the House this evening.

Since the first reading in November 2004, I have received an overwhelming amount of support in my riding of Oshawa and from across the country, including thousands of petitions, letters and e-mails. As many know, Bill C-420 was first introduced in the 37th session of Parliament by the member for Nanaimo--Alberni. During that session, Bill C-420 had the support of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who demanded greater freedom in their choice of complementary treatments, dietary supplements, herbs and other natural health products. The only thing that has changed today is the dramatic increase in support.

With health care being one of the biggest concerns for Canadians, we have to stop dithering and take action. The government has spent the last decade talking about endorsing better wellness and prevention. The time for talk is over. Bill C-420 is a significant move toward promoting healthier and safer choices for Canadians.

This bill would amend the Food and Drugs Act to include herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products under the definition of food as opposed to drugs, and repealing subsections 3(1) and 3(2) in schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act.

To date, questions have been raised about the actual effects this bill would have on consumer safety and protection. Bill C-420 would simply recategorize natural health products so that they fall under a food-style directorate rather than under a drug-style directorate while continuing to ensure effective manufacturing processes and inspections. We would recommend establishing a team of experts to review and provide a quality assessment of health claims, ensuring that such claims have scientific validity, such as a long history of traditional use without evidence of harm, some scientific merit or established scientific benefit.

It is generally acknowledged that natural health products are low risk, low cost and offer significant benefits to a wide range of costly health problems. Risk must always be addressed in terms of other risks. Even over the counter drugs could be potentially fatal if taken incorrectly, or sometimes even correctly. For example, such things as cough syrup, Aspirin and Tylenol are responsible for deaths in Canada every year. Even common foods such as peanut butter can cause a great deal of harm. Allergies to peanuts result in approximately 5 to 10 deaths in Canada each year. By comparison, since 1960 not one death in Canada has been attributed to a natural health product.

We must keep all these issues in the correct perspective. As my colleague stated in a news release, “In a day of skyrocketing health costs, all avenues of promoting healthier Canadians need to be explored”. By regulating dietary supplements, herbs and natural health products under Health Canada's food directorate, the government would ensure that these products are free of the limitations they face under the current drug directorate.

I would also like to draw attention to the 1998 report “Natural Health Products: A New Vision”, which included a recommendation to review schedule A and subsections 3(1) and 3(2). Former minister of health Allan Rock and the natural health products directorate also echoed this recommendation in 1999, stating that subsections 3(1) and (2) in schedule A of the act are no longer relevant and do not serve a purpose that cannot otherwise be accomplished through other sections of the legislation or regulations.

In closing, I would like to bring up some personal cases about health supplements. In my career as a chiropractor, I saw many people who took drugs for years that caused serious harms to their own bodies. I recall H.B., a wonderful senior suffering from fibromyalgia and arthritis. She took non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for so long she developed a serious allergy to the medication which caused severe allergic reactions. There was P.M., a patient with a similar reaction. His last reaction sent him to the hospital. Thank goodness for natural alternatives to these potentially dangerous drugs.

Bill C-420 will put health freedom back into the hands of individual Canadians. It will help provide a more holistic approach and encourage Canadians to take a more responsible and active role in their own health care.

We need to free up our overburdened resources and enhance the availability of potentially curative resources already in the community. I encourage all my colleagues to support Bill C-420 and help move dietary supplements in the right direction, the direction that Canadians want.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 6:20 p.m.
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Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in debate on Bill C-420.

Just as an aside before I begin my remarks on the bill, members may be aware that for years I fought for the votability of private members' business. I must say that the quality of debate now is at a much higher level than it used to be years ago.

It is very interesting to listen to the different points of view. The two speakers I have listened to today have me almost convinced. I am hoping that all members of the House of Commons are listening to this debate, because we have to vote on these bills now. I think some very good legislation is proposed here, legislation that we should take note of. I say that as a prelude to commenting on this bill.

This is really a very important bill. Many of us are very busy, but we should take note of what is happening here today because this bill would provide a viable choice for Canadians who find natural health products helpful. There are many in my constituency and across Canada who use natural health products and find them useful and helpful in maintaining health.

Many Canadians are upset that, for reasons they feel are inadequate, the bureaucrats and the politicians are excessively regulating products they find helpful. I stand here today and agree with those Canadians who do not like the excessive regulation that is taking place.

We spend a lot of money treating illnesses in our health care system, yet when there is an opportunity to prevent health problems and reduce costs, we throw roadblocks in the way. That is not acceptable.

People have been using many of these health products throughout human history. Often they are simply the packaging of herbs or other natural substances found in nature.

Bill C-420 should be supported by members on both sides of Parliament because it would advance effectiveness and cost effectiveness of personal health care and, in the end, improve the personal health of Canadians.

Even if members do not believe that we should allow our citizens to have a choice in personal health care, members should support what we are doing. It would bring down the costs. In effect, if we do not support this bill we could be forcing Canadians to use a health care system they would rather avoid.

I was a grower of echinacea. Echinacea is a natural prairie flower called the purple coneflower. It has helped boost the immune systems of many people. It reduces the length and seriousness of illnesses.

It is not possible to patent this herb. Why then does it have to be treated as a drug? Yes, it could be regulated to ensure its purity, but it should be treated more like a food than a drug. That is what Bill C-420 tries to do. To treat it as a drug makes it harder for ordinary people to obtain. It drives up the cost. Those on low or fixed incomes have a more difficult time because it becomes too expensive.

In 1988, the parliamentary health committee, with members from all parties supporting it, put out a report with 53 recommendations. The government accepted all of them. Included was a recommendation that the Food and Drugs Act include natural health products and that the companies be allowed to make health claims.

A team of 17 experts was then assembled to take the committee's work, expand on it and clarify it where necessary. That was the mandate they were given, but let us look at what happened.

In 2001 the government ignored the committee's recommendations, treating natural health products as pharmaceutical drugs with all kinds of hoops and hurdles for natural health products to jump through and over before they could get the approval, just like drugs. That, we know, can take years. For the companies or the people who put out these products, this make them more expensive in the end, and we have improved virtually nothing by doing this.

Canadians rightfully were upset when this happened. The result was that many of the most effective natural health products were removed from the market and were not available to Canadians to improve their health. This urgent situation needs to be corrected.

We should support Bill C-420 and send it to committee to be dealt with as soon as possible. Bill C-420 would treat herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products as a food rather than have them fall under the definition of a drug or we could create some amendments to have a separate category.

Lest members think there are no regulations that food producers have to comply with, let me give an example of some of the safeguards. I am quoting from our food regulatory system:

  1. No person shall sell an article of food that

(a) has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance;

(b) is unfit for human consumption

(c) consists in whole or in part of any filthy, putrid, disgusting, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;

(d) is adulterated; or

(e) was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored under unsanitary conditions...

  1. (1) No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.

We obviously have controls already. It is not like we are asking that everything be thrown wide open so that there is no control over what people buy.

Let me give an example of another terrible thing that has happened. This is something that all members here should note. A vitamin-mineral product was developed in Canada that was having a phenomenal effect on people with a mental disorder called bipolar disorder. The results were published in reputable, peer reviewed scientific journals. Health Canada moved in, however, took the success of this natural product as a violation of the law it created. There was absolutely no evidence that the product was harming anyone.

In July 2003 Health Canada shut down everything. It blocked all access to this natural health product. How many people today are suffering because of this act? Health Canada went in just like the KGB, raided offices, confiscated computers, et cetera. Health Canada told the users of this natural health product to go back on expensive drugs that did not work effectively for them.

This was a low cost solution and is a solution that could relieve great human suffering, yet it was denied to many Canadians. This is just one example of where the rubber hits the road on how harmful our present situation is with the way natural health products are treated.

Bill C-420 can put the brakes on a bureaucracy that is out of control. We need to restore the freedom of choice. It is not like there are no controls if we put it back into the category of food or some separate grouping, as I explained earlier. The Department of Health that should be trying to improve the health of Canadians is doing the opposite.

In conclusion, I appeal to all members of the House to support Bill C-420 because it is designed to do something about a department that does not have as its primary interest the health of Canadians when it comes to the use of natural health products. I have had experience with it. I know of what I speak and I hope all members will take note of this, approve the bill, and send it to committee.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of the principle behind the bill. We support Canadians having reasonable and safe access to these products. However, we are concerned that some aspects of the bill may have unintended consequences, and I will speak to that shortly.

Canadians use a lot of natural health products. In 2003 Canadians spent over $1.2 billion on products, including vitamins, minerals, herbs and so on. Add in more than $3.5 billion spent on organic food products, natural personal care products and functional food and we have a sense of the size of this sector and how important it is to Canadians.

We support the safe access of Canadians to these products. With this much money being spent, it is critical that Canadians feel confident about the products presented, their safety and the efficacy.

I depend on the work of my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, who sat on the health committee in 1998 and helped prepare the report on natural health products, from which I have taken a great deal of information.

We believe that natural health products do not fit in either the food category or the drug category and that Health Canada must move toward a third category that has already been referenced. The definition of food would not cover natural health products that are applied topically, such as a cream, or others that are injected.

The Canadian Health Food Association, in its report to members on Bill C-420, states that:

Pursuing the former Standing Committee on Health's recommendation for a distinct third category would better serve the industry at this time than would redefining NHPs as foods.

The current definition of food prohibits claims, other than basic nutritional information and a few generic health claims for food products. Under the new NHP Regulations industry has the ability to make a wide range of claims for its products based upon appropriate evidence. Without extensive amendments to the food definition and regulations this ability to make claims would likely be lost if NHPs were redefined as foods.

Further, food labelling regulations do not allow for dosing information or for the listing of warnings and contraindications, information needed by consumers to make appropriate product choices.

Industry has invested significant resources, both financial and human, in developing and now complying with the Natural Health Products Regulations. We do not want to see this effort go to waste if NHPs are redefined as “foods”. The existing NDP Regulations may not be transferred over to the food side and may actually have to be recreated in line with existing food regulations if NHPs are redefined as foods.

I think the explanation from the Canadian Health Food Association is pretty clear as to why redefining NHPs as food may have unintended consequences.

However, other parts of the bill deserve some serious consideration. Both CHFA and the Canadian Medical Association would like Health Canada to revisit schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act.

Its definitions of diseases and conditions is too broad. A product that could help regulate blood pressure could not make that assertion because heart disease is one of the conditions under schedule A.

There are still many conditions for which we do not believe people should be encouraged to self-medicate, so we do not believe schedule A should be completely repealed.

Schedule 3 is also important to the NDP. Recent events, like the Vioxx recall, point to the direct-to-consumer advertising as part of the problem. People saw so many advertisements about this wonderful drug, which would make them pain free, that they pressured their doctors to prescribe Vioxx. We need to continue to regulate direct to consumer advertising as part of overall consumer safety and to reduce over-prescribing that increases health care costs.

I would like to turn to the 1998 report from our previous health committee on “Natural Health Products: A New Vision”. It has a succinct definition of health claims. It states:

Health claims, meanwhile, are statements of the effect of a product on the health of an individual made by the manufacturer or distributor, and displayed on the product label or literature. The Committee was told that there were generally three different categories of health claims. According to the APNHP, they are defined as follows. Structure-function claims report the effect of a product on a structure or physiological function in the human body and are based on the maintenance or promotion of good health. Risk-reduction claims relate consumption of a product to significant reduction in the risk of developing a disease or abnormal physiological state. Risk reduction may occur in two ways. One, the product may alter a recognized major health risk factor or factors of a disease or abnormal state. Two, it may affect a body function or system so as to improve the body's capacity to resist the disease or abnormal state.

Therapeutic or treatment claims report the effects of a product on the actions of a specific disease or its symptoms. Treatment can include the cure or alleviation of either the disease or its symptoms.

There are a couple of examples of health claims, one under structure: “calcium builds strong bones”. Another under risk reduction is that “garlic decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases”. A therapeutic or treatment claim says that “St. John's Wort is useful in the treatment of mild to moderate depression”. This is all from the final report of the advisory panel on natural health products in May 1998.

The NDP agrees with the committee's report, which stated that no health claim should be allowed without evidence to back it up. Their recommendations are reasonable when it comes to making health claims about natural health products. These are some of the report's recommendations:

NHPs be allowed to make health claims, including structure-function claims, risk-reduction claims and treatment claims;

Claims be assessed to ensure that there is reasonable evidence supporting the claim;

The evidence not be limited to double blind clinical trials but also include other types of evidence such as generally accepted and traditional references, professional consensus, other types of clinical trials and other clinical or scientific evidence;

The evidence required vary depending on the type of claim being made, with different evidence being required for structure-function claims and risk-reduction claims for minor self-limiting conditions than for therapeutic or treatment claims;

The label indicates clearly the type of evidence used to support the claim.

We want this bill to come forward to the committee so we can look at the regulations and the recent changes that Health Canada has made to enable natural health product suppliers to move more quickly to get their products approved. We would encourage the House to support the bill going forward to committee so we can have a much fuller debate around these critical issues.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased today to speak on Bill C-420 to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

The aim of this bill, which was introduced and read the first time on October 21, 2004, is to ensure that natural health products are no longer designated as drugs but rather as food.

I want to state right off that my party will vote in favour of the bill to amend the Food and Drugs Act, but on certain conditions. During the short time I have now, I will present the conditions for our support for this bill at second reading.

First, it is essential, in our opinion, to amend the current Food and Drugs Act. Why? So that these new concerns, these new types of uses of natural products, for example, can be included in the Canada Health Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the use of these natural health products by people in Quebec and Canada. According to a study by Health Canada in 1997, more than 56% of Canadians had taken a natural health product during the previous six months.

More and more, Quebeckers and Canadians believe that we must take a complementary approach and not just limit ourselves to traditional medicine. We must, however, also ensure that the aspects of alternative medicine, complementary medicine, or holistic medicine can be integrated into our decision-making processes. If we observe that our fellow citizens are taking more natural health products, then legislation must be in place.

What has the government done in recent years with respect to natural health products? Instead of amending the Food and Drug Act as it should have done, and as the Standing Committee on Health recommended back in 1998, the government simply adopted or had adopted regulations on natural health products. This of course is a step in the right direction. It was time for the government to acknowledge, through regulation, that the Canadian public is using these products more and more.

However, what do the regulations that came into effect in January 2004 actually do? They cover definitions, licences for marketing, and good manufacturing practices. Still, even with regulations, natural health products will continue to be defined as drugs, or sometimes even as foods. So, depending on the product, these products will not necessarily be considered foods or drugs. There is ambiguity in the way these natural health products are categorized in the legislation.

That is a problem the bill does not solve. Should all natural health products be considered foods? Of course not. Is there not a characteristic, a value, specific to natural health products? Are natural health products necessarily foods or even drugs? The answer is no, not necessarily.

This is why we need to create a new category in the Food and Drugs Act. Why? Because natural health products could, to some degree in the years to come end up excluded from the market. Why so? Because, if considered drugs, these products would be subject to a comparable accreditation process.

Is a natural health product a drug? The answer is no. Consequently, if these products are not drugs, why would they have to be subject to the same registration and approval process as drugs? The danger in the present legislation lies in the fact that these products are at risk of being eliminated from the market. A better balance needs to be struck, therefore, between access and the possibility of access by the public to these natural health products, while assuring the people of Quebec and of Canada of their quality and safety.

The Food and Drugs Act therefore needs to be changed. That is what Bill C-420, which we have before us, permits. This bill would have natural health products considered foods, except where safety and proper labelling obligations are concerned. They would continue to be under the umbrella, if I can put it that way, of drugs.

It must be remembered that this House and its members have analyzed this matter and reflected on it. They have heard a number of witnesses and a number of questions concerning this new issue—a new concern—that is, the use of natural health products.

In a report from the Standing Committee on Health, which contained over fifty recommendations to the government, parliamentarians asked the government for better management of these natural health products because sometimes these can—it must be admitted—deviate from acceptable safety standards.

We have to strike a balance between our obligation as parliamentarians to protect public health and, our allowing people who believe in a new complementary approach to medicine to have access to these natural health products. We have to make sure these people, who also believe in a preventive approach to health, can have access to this type of product that aims at better complementarity.

This is one of the major conclusions the Standing Committee on Health came to. I sat on the committee and was a signatory to the report in 1988, with my colleague from Drummond, who asked to create a new distinct category of natural health products in order to recognize the unique and intrinsic values of the natural health care products.

During the minute I have remaining, I want to say in this House and to the sponsor of this bill that we will support Bill C-420 at this stage. However, we plan to present an amendment at the parliamentary committee to create a new unique and separate category called natural health products. This will be done so that the recommendations made by parliamentarians in 1988, which were included in a report by the Standing Committee on Health, will be heard in this House.

Our support for Bill C-420 is far from definitive. However, at this stage, we will support it, but we will be sure to propose amendments at committee.

Natural Health ProductsStatements By Members

February 7th, 2005 / 2:05 p.m.
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James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-420 is back on the parliamentary agenda. With the help of my colleague from Oshawa, Bill C-420 was reintroduced on October 21, 2004. The second hour of debate will soon be occurring before a second reading vote.

The bill is about natural health product regulation. It is about freedom of choice in personal health care.

Canadians want the government to understand that vitamins, minerals, herbs and amino acids are not drugs. They are what we are made of. They want their natural health products regulated under a food style directorate, not as drugs. That is what Bill C-420 is all about.

Bill C-420 would amend the Food and Drugs Act. It would open the definition of food to include natural health products. It would open the definition of drug and exclude food. It would also scrap antiquated sections 3(1), 3(2) and schedule A that prevent health claims for natural health products, even when they are based on sound science.

Under Bill C-420 we would develop good manufacturing practices, inspections and quality assessments for health claims.

It is time to let natural health products take their place as a foundation for a wellness and disease prevention strategy that can help put Canada on the forefront of real health care reform.