June 25, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada
Many Canadians use a wide variety of natural health products (NHPs) daily such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, homeopathic and traditional products. The demand for these products has increased during the pandemic, as more Canadians rely on them to support their own health and that of their families. Clear and legible labels on NHPs are critical for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions and to use these products safely.
Today, in an effort to better support Canadians in their use of these products, Health Canada announced proposed changes to the Natural Health Products Regulations to make NHP labels more clear, legible and easier to understand.
Health Canada’s proposal includes four key elements, which will help Canadians make informed decisions when selecting and using NHPs:
- A Product Facts table: Important product information, such as warnings and directions for use, would be presented in a standardized table;
- Clearly and prominently displayed label text: Rules would be introduced to improve NHP label legibility and readability (e.g., improved colour contrast and minimum font size requirements);
- Labelling of food allergens, gluten and aspartame: Priority food allergens, gluten, and aspartame would be identified in the warning section of the label;
- Modernized contact information: A manufacturer may display either an email address, telephone number or website instead of a postal address, as currently required.
This regulatory proposal to improve labelling for NHPs is a key component of the Self-Care Framework, initiated in 2016. Throughout the development of the Framework, there has been extensive consultation with more than 4,500 consumers, academics and health professionals on this proposal. Health Canada also consulted directly with the NHP industry to develop a proposal that balances cost to industry with the Department’s goal of providing Canadians with better labels.
This proposal also addresses a key recommendation from the recent audit on Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Program. It will improve product labels to help consumers understand key product information provided to protect their health.
We recognize that clear labelling is one aspect of improving Canadians’ access to safe, effective and high quality NHPs among a broader suite of improvements envisioned as part of the Self-Care Framework and in response to findings of the recent audit. Health Canada will continue working, in parallel, with industry and other key stakeholders to advance work in other priority areas such as extending risk-based oversight, introducing cost recovery and strengthening compliance and enforcement powers through Vanessa’s Law.
Health Canada welcomes all feedback through the formal consultation process in Canada Gazette, Part I, which will be open for 70 days.
Health Canada is also consulting on draft guidance that will outline the various flexibilities available to industry in implementing the labelling changes. This consultation can be accessed via the Consulting with Canadians web page over the same time period. All interested parties are encouraged to review the proposed regulations and guidance and provide feedback.