On April 8, 2008, Canada’s federal government tabled bill Bill C-51, designed to “modernize the Food and Drugs Act”.

The Bill “proposes to maintain a rigorous assessment of health products prior to making them available. In addition, we’re proposing to gain the ability to continuously monitor the safety of products even after they are approved”.

Sounds good.

We don’t want any tainted vitamins, herbs, etc, getting into the marketplace. And if they do, the government has taken the power and responsibility of recall from the manufacturers and given it to themselves.

So, essentially what the government is doing is asking the natural health product industry to prove that their products will do no harm. Once proven, manufacturers will be able to make claims of efficacy like the pharmaceutical industry.

This may even improve the business model for nutritional supplements in Canada. Vetted health claims might increase the legitimacy of the industry in the public’s eye. And yet, something doesn’t seem right with this piece of legislation.

Here is my problem with Bill C-51 – What are they protecting us from?

  • In 2006, the U.S. reported one death associated with the ingestion of vitamins. Specifically, it was an unknown vitamin & it was reported that while the vitamin played a part, it was unlikely that it was the cause of death. How they would know that if the vitamin was unknown, I will never know.
  • Compare that to the 2006 data for Pharmaceutical deaths. The full report is here.

Here are the Pharmaceutical Categories associated with largest number of fatalities (Top 25)

Deaths – Substance
382- Sedative/hypnotics/antipsychotics
307 – Opioids
252 – Cardiovascular drugs
214 – Acetaminophen in combination
210 – Antidepressants
203 – Stimulants and street drugs
139 – Alcohols
138 – Acetaminophen only
98 – Muscle relaxants
93 – Anticonvulsants
75 – Cyclic antidepressants
69 – Fumes/gases/vapors
66 – Antihistamines
61 – Aspirin alone
55 – Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
49 – Unknown drug
38 – Chemicals
35 – Oral hypoglycemics
27 – Miscellaneous drugs
25 – Diuretics
25 – Automotive/aircraft/boat products
22 – Antihistamine/decongestant, without phenylpropanolamine
20 – Hormones and hormone antagonists
18- Anticoagulants

Vitamins – 1 death  :  Aspirin & Acetaminophen – 199 deaths

As far as I am concerned, that should be the end of the story. The government has no business creating a problem where none exists.

Fin

Reference

  • video of an anti Bill C-51 rally
  • Health Minister, Tony Clement’s press conference to discuss Bill C-51
  • article in the Globe and Mail
  • article in the Vancouver Sun
  • The (CHFA) Canadian Health Food Association’s submission to the House of Commons.
  • article by Andre Picard, Globe and Mail
  • CHFA response to Picard article