Return to the House for Natural Health Products Bill

Tuesday 13th November 2012

The Natural Health Products Bill has returned to the House for debate in Parliament following the Health Select Committee’s report on the Bill.

The Bill seeks to introduce regulation of low risk natural health products in New Zealand and bring us into line with regulation in overseas export markets.  The intention of the Bill is to ensure natural health care products such as vitamin supplements meet certain thresholds and there is consistency in the industry for manufacturers and consumers alike.

The Select Committee has recommended the the Bill’s title is amended to the Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill to clarify that the Bill covers both natural and synthetic products and that the products may contain excipients, and has proposed an amendment to require the Act to come into force no later than 3 January 2014.

The Bill requires the establishment of a Natural Health and Supplementary Products Regulatory Authority to be administered by the Ministry of Health and an advisory committee to provide expert advice to the Authority.  The Authority will be separate from Medsafe to ensure independence.

The Select Committee has recommended an amendment to the Bill to express an underlying principle of the Bill that the evidence which supports health benefit claims made for natural health and supplementary products may be either scientific evidence (produced from empirical studies or repeatable experiments) or traditional evidence (derived from use of a substance based on beliefs, knowledge or practices passed down from one generation to the next). 

The Select Committee has acknowledged the difficulty in distinguishing between a natural health or supplementary product and a food or medicine and has highlighted honey as an example which could fall in all three categories depending on the product claims made for the product in question.  It is considered to be unduly onerous for goods such a herbal teas which claim certain benefits to be captured by the Bill and to be subject to the associated compliance and regulatory requirements.  It has therefore proposed amendments to define a natural health or supplementary product as one which is not a food or one which is not presented as a food.  Food is further defined under the Bill.  Further amendments to define a natural health or supplementary product as one that is not any medicine, related product or medical device have been proposed.

The Bill provides for the prescription of fees by the Authority and the Select Committe has proposed the introductions of clauses to guide the setting of such fees.

The Bill will now enter the next stage and will be debated in Parliament, most likely in early 2013.

This article was written by Sue Ironside.

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