National's Food Safety spokesperson Barbara Kuriger is throwing her support behind Natural Health Products NZ (NHPNZ).
The industry body with more than 145 members represents 85% of the country’s natural health industries, manufacturers, suppliers and branded goods companies.
The sector contributes more than $2.3 billion to NZ’s economy each year.
But that total could be higher, if a bill to regulate it — the Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill — hadn’t been stopped in its tracks in 2017, following the change in government and being blocked by New Zealand First.
The bill was introduced in 2011 by former Minister of Heath, Dr Jonathan Coleman. It’s intent was to establish regulations for natural products which included the requirement for evidence of efficacy, clear guidelines and penalties for non-compliance.”
In March National supported the Government’s amendment bill to extend the expiry date of the Dietary Supplements Regulations 1985 Act by five years to 2026, to allow for new legislation to be developed — only to stop it lapsing.
“But the natural products industry has again fallen through the cracks as it is not covered by this act,” says Mrs Kuriger.
“This gap means consumers may not have the right information to know if what they are consuming is useful and there’s no effective policing of safety standards to protect the public from rogue operators.
“New Zealand is the only country in the OECD without a modern regulatory system and this billion-dollar industry is suffering because we’re out of step with our trading partners.
“It’s a sector that cannot wait another five years. NZ natural products standards don’t comply with regulations in countries like Australia, the United States or Dubai, so we’re losing valuable export markets.” The Government is citing COVID-19 as the reason why new legislation hasn’t been completed but Mrs Kuriger says it’s the best reason for the work to be given priority.
“They’re concentrating on introducing the Therapeutic Products Bill in 12 months’ time, which the Minister for Food Safety says will cover natural products.
“But why wait? So much work was done Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill with more than 800 submissions.
“As a country facing a new world thanks to COVID-19, we’ll have to change the way we do things, because trade is now more important than ever.
“Part of that will be sending new technology and new products across the globe, so we need to get this industry moving.”