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Getting the Most Out of Your Supplements - a Rebuttal to the Current NHP Bashing

Recently we've heard a lot about how 'bad' the supplement industry is - but these stories are so one sided, and are actually factually inaccurate on many levels. They are so inaccurate in fact, that the CHFA has threatened legal action against the CBC for the articles they have been airing. With these disappointing and surprisingly poor reports coming out, we thought it would be pertinent to let you know about all the amazingly in-depth effort and science that goes into every supplement before it arrives on our shelves. Did you know that every health claim in Canada requires an NPN (Natural Product Number) to be sold legally? Did you know that in order to obtain those NPN's supplement companies spend millions of dollars on scientifically rigorous studies, and very accurate quality control testing? Did you know that most reputable supplement companies test their raw materials 3 times: at the supplier's port, at the Canadian docks, and then again at their own plants (usually upon arrival and then again before the final product is shipped out)? As you can see - in Canada the natural health care industry is not only thriving - but it is thriving in a very ethical, environmentally friendly, socially responsible and healthy manner! Why wouldn't it be - we're all hippies at heart! <3 Below is a rebuttal that the CHFA has published in support of our hard working Canadian supplement companies - we hope it helps to dispel any fears you may have about the legitimacy of our Canadian supplements and health products: Supplements – How to Know What you are Getting When it comes to natural health products (NHPs), which include vitamins and supplements, we know it can be a bit confusing. What should I take? Does the product actually contain what it says on the label? Is the product safe? Over the last couple of weeks, with CBC’s Marketplace trying to “blow the lid off the vitamin and supplements industry,” these questions and many others, have been top of mind for many Canadians. To help clarify CBC Marketplace’s claims and conclusions in the Nov. 13, 2015 broadcast, the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) has put together this FAQ to debunk the myths and set the record straight. How are supplements tested before being sold in Canada? All NHPs sold in Canada, must first be approved and licensed by Health Canada. We call this a pre-market approval system. The company selling the NHP must provide information about the product, including medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients, scientific research or traditional evidence supporting any health claims, product labelling and information about the manufacturing site. Part of this process includes reporting the results of standardized laboratory tests demonstrating that the product contains the advertised medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients. Once approved, Health Canada issues an eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN), which can be found on the product label and the Licensed Natural Health Product Database. How were the supplements featured in the Marketplace episode tested? There is no information in the program broadcasted on Nov. 13, 2015 to demonstrate that an accredited Canadian laboratory was used. CHFA would expect that, when making this type of serious allegation, a respected institution like CBC would ensure the tests were conducted, and the results were verified, by an accredited laboratory, and that the credentials of the facility would have been highlighted in the broadcast. It’s important to note that the results on which the report was based were analyzed on the program by a competitor in the marketplace. It is our view that this fact should have been conspicuously disclosed. This vital piece of information was never disclosed directly to the viewer in the broadcast of Nov. 13, 2015. We believe that this is of significant concern, and forces us to ask questions about the fairness of the program. Currently, there are 35 government-recognized labs located in Canada that could have done the testing. These labs are dedicated to analytical services and do not profit or make money based on their test results, nor do they sell vitamins or minerals. We would like to ask why one of these labs were not used in advance of the Nov. 13, 2015 broadcast. What do the companies featured in the program have to say? All of the named companies have co-operated with CBC and provided several communications indicating serious concerns with the results in the report. In fact, 14 pages of company submissions supporting the quality of their products and questioning the validity of CBC’s testing are listed on CBC’s website, including the following quotes, which clearly articulate the questionable test results:
  • We strongly believe CBC’s test results are erroneous and reflect either an error at the laboratory or counterfeit product;
  • Regardless of the reason for the errors in the CBC test results, we believe it is in both parties’ best interests to conduct further testing to determine what may have gone wrong in the analysis;
  • The method of analysis employed does not appear to be validated;
  • (We) provided CBC with irrefutable evidence, including independent testing, that the results of CBC’s testing are scientifically inaccurate, and that any claims made on the basis of these results are false and misleading. We are deeply disappointed that CBC has chosen to use such erroneous results;
  • Three leading industry organizations have all confirmed that the method for testing anisidine levels as outlined in the GOED Voluntary Monograph is not a valid testing methodology for krill oil;
  • The testing methodology Marketplace used does not adhere to current industry standards, resulting in CBC’s inaccurate test results. The vitamin C testing method Marketplace used is a 47-year-old methodology last updated in 1968 (AOAC) that is outdated, inaccurate and inconsistent with Health Canada regulatory requirements;
  • It is unusual for third-party laboratories to validate methods or methodology that are demonstrated to be suitable to specific products, unless they work in collaboration with the supplier of the materials or products;
  • We are questioning if there may be an error in calculating using other omega peaks for this high result? GMPs are followed in the manufacturing facility; this ensures master formula instructions are followed with documented checks and yield checks for raw materials and bulk product. The overage of 596 per cent is also not economically practical and would also result in an unpalatable product with a strong fishy odor and taste.
How are supplements regulated? After extensive consultation with experts and consumers across the country, the Standing Committee of Health decided in 1998 that NHPs are neither foods nor drugs. Based on this, a regulatory system was built, which respects Canadians’ freedom of choice, cultural diversity and traditional use of NHPs. NHPs are regulated under the Natural Health Product Regulations that have been in place since 2004. These regulations require companies to meet specific quality standards. If a company does not adhere to these regulations they are considered to be in non-compliance with Canadian law and subject to penalties under the Food and Drugs Act. How do you know the product contains what it says on the label? Health Canada has a regulatory review process that requires all NHPs licensed for sale in Canada, to provide evidence supporting any claims made by the product, as well as their safety and efficacy. NHPs that have been assessed by Health Canada for safety, efficacy and quality are issued an NPN (natural Product Number). If you would like more information on a specific product legally licensed for sale in Canada, you can consult Health Canada’s Licensed Natural Health Products Database (LNHPD) online, which contains product-specific information on the NHPs that have been issued a product licence. How do you know your supplements are safe and effective? NHPs have a long history of safe use, and Canadians can feel confident that Health Canada reviews and approves each product before it is sold on store shelves. The evidence requirements for NHPs reflect the low-risk nature of these products. This evidence includes valid, high-quality scientific and/or traditional evidence to support any of the claims made on the label, and to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the product. It is important to acknowledge that Canada is a global leader in the regulation of NHPs and that Health Canada has a pre-market regulatory review process. Our Canadian system respects traditional values from many different cultures and allows Canadians access to these important products. Do you really need to take supplements? Many Canadians are using NHPs on a daily basis as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes diet, exercise and whole organic foods. Vitamin D is a great example of an NHP that is of particular benefit to Canadians. During the winter months our lack of sun exposure puts infants to the elderly at risk of a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is a nutrient our body cannot get from food alone. Another example: folic acid is needed for the proper development of the human body. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant take folic acid to prevent miscarriage and birth defects such as spina bifida. When taken as directed, natural health products can provide significant health benefits and pose minimal risk. We always recommend that people consult their trusted health care practitioner on the right natural health products to keep them healthy. Make sure your health care provider knows what other drugs and NHPs you are using. Only use approved NHPs that have an NPN on the label. Also don’t forget to read and follow all instructions on the product label. What is CHFA doing? As noted above, CHFA would like to know why a government-recognized lab located in Canada was not used. CHFA has sent numerous communications to CBC explaining that we are prepared to work with CBC and even willing to cover the cost of additional independent tests at an accredited Canadian facility. CHFA has also repeatedly asked for the testing methodology and results for our review. CBC has not granted our requests. We are confident that by partnering with CHFA, the resulting tests would ensure a fit-for-purpose methodology, ensure proper storage, shipping and handling procedures and further inform CBC’s viewers. Unfortunately, CBC has not agreed to our request.