In our last issue of the Osler Advertising and Marketing Review, we reported on new consumer product safety legislation that formed an integral part of the federal Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan: Bills C-51 and C-52. Bill C-51 (An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts), proposed progressive licensing, life-cycle monitoring and post-market testing for drug products. It received strong opposition from the natural health product industry. For instance, websites such as Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd.’s “Stopc51.com” sprang up and protest rallies were organized across the country. In response to overwhelming criticism, Health Minister Tony Clement set out to amend Bill C-51 in early June while the bill was still in second reading phase. The government proposed four substantial legislative amendments to be considered by the Standing Committee on Health.

The first major amendment would change the definition of “therapeutic product” to include “natural health product” so as to recognize natural health products (NHPs) as a category separate and apart from food and drugs. Secondly, the government proposed that the standards of evidence used to grant market authorization for a NHP under the Natural Health Products Regulations recognize traditional knowledge and history of use of the particular NHP.

The Conservatives also sought to clarify that the enforcement powers of inspectors should be exercised reasonably to determine compliance and prevent non-compliance. Additionally, seizure, detention and disposal of a product should be related to the risk of the product. Finally, the government proposed the creation of an Advisory Committee comprised of consumers, NHP industry representatives, health professionals, and patients. The Committee would assist the government in the interpretation and implementation of the Food and Drugs Act and associated Regulations.

Some Canadians were pleased with the proposals while others continued to demand termination of Bill C-51 in its entirety. As it turned out, the latter group’s demand was met when the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, dissolved Parliament on September 7, 2008 to issue writs of election. Bill C-51 died on the order table. It remains to be seen whether this contentious bill will be re-introduced when Parliament reconvenes.