Health Canada Still Wants Your Herbs

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Health Canada Still Wants Your Herbs

Photo Lincoln Clarkes

Health Minister Alan Rock is making one last attempt to salvage the anti-herb corporate agenda from the efforts of grassroots movements across Canada. It might just work.

A Deceptive Announcement

On October 4, Health Minister Alan Rock announced that he was calling a halt to the regulations which would have come into effect on January 1, 1998 ? regulations which would have required herbalists to pay huge licensing fees to Canada’s Health Protection Branch. The basis of the attempt to impose licensing fees was the understanding that health foods would thereafter be treated as drugs.

The Health Minister’s latest announcement was heralded by the major media as a capitulation to the interests of consumer and grassroots groups. Rock himself declared that, “Our announcement today sends a clear signal. The government has listened.”

Yet Rock’s recent announcement actually veils a disturbing message. While attempting to placate a public which supports easy access to medicinal herbs, he is continuing to push for the tight regulation of all health foods, including herbs, vitamins, and other dietary supplements.

“We must keep in mind our fundamental role as a regulator,” stated Rock in the same October 4 press release, “the public relies upon Health Canada to prevent and correct dangers associated with health products, to ensure their quality and safety.”

The German Standard

Health Minister Alan Rock: listening to the people orignoring the damage?

One method of regulation being explored by Rock is compliance with “international conventions and standards.” Rock points to Germany as a model, even though Germany regulates their herb and health food industry to the point where vitamin C costs 18 times more than in Canada, and many other health foods and vitamins are simply unobtainable.

In Germany, health foods are considered to be drugs. German pharmaceutical companies were responsible for recent additions to the UN standards on drugs called “Codex Alimentarius”, which threatened health food on a global scale. The German Codex amendments were repealed this summer as the result of massive international public disapproval.

The Fake Third Category

Another method of regulation Rock would like to explore is the regulation of herbs and health foods by the creation of a “third category”. In the third category approach health foods would be regulated as neither foods nor drugs, but as something else.

The third category approach is being widely promoted by the Canadian Coalition for Health Freedom, a fake grass-roots organization set up by a coalition of vitamin manufacturers which are actually subsidiaries of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

The third category approach means that while some health foods would remain available, they would be as heavily regulated as pharmaceutical drugs, and would cost too much for them to be serious competitors to pharmaceutical treatments.

Debbie Anderson of Citizen’s Voice for Health Rights sums up the problem: “Rock’s intentions clearly support the Health Protection Branch’s original agenda: to continue to remove safe vitamins, minerals, herbs and dietary supplements out of the food category, where they rightfully belon4g.”


* The Honourable Allan Rock, Minister of Health: The House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6; tel (613) 992-4261; fax (613) 990-7255;

* Citizen’s Voice for Health Rights (Formerly Freedom of Choice in Health Care): Suite 126 ? 9110A Younge Road South, Chilliwack, BC, V2P 4R5; tel (250) 685-7835;

* Health Action Network Society: #202 ? 5262 Rumble St, Burnaby, BC, V5J 2B6; tel (604) 435 0512; toll free: (888) 432-4267; fax (604) 435-1561

By Dan Loehndorf finis