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Natural products regulation delayed until after the election

Jonathan Chilton-Towle jct@pharmacytoday.co.nzFriday 09 June 2017, 10:39AM
Natural products regulation delayed until after the election

The wait for the Government to implement the natural products regulations continues, with nothing happening until after the general election in September. 

The Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill, a new piece of legislation to ensure products are true to claim, is awaiting its third reading in Parliament - a position where it has languished for over three years. 

It passed its second reading on 21 March 2013 and, according to Ministry of Health staff, is currently waiting for the Committee of the Whole House to decide on its final text before it will be read in Parliament and become law. 

The ministry was originally due to enforce the bill by 1 July last year but on 24 May 2016, it delayed the bill's implementation until the following November. 

November came and went with no bill and there has still been no movement on it six months down the track.  

In the meantime, there is no ­specific legislation governing the use of natural health products in New Zealand - they fall under dietary supplement regulations from 1985. 

Ministry staff members were due to provide the latest update on the bill's progress at the recent Natural Products New Zealand Summit, held in Nelson at the end of March. 

However, much like the bill, their progress was delayed and they were unable to attend the conference due to fog causing the cancellation of flights out of Wellington. 

Instead, Natural Products New Zealand (NPNZ) executive director Alison Quesnel gave the update in their place, and the update proved to be that, essentially, there was no update to give. 

Ms Quesnel has it on good authority there will not be any movement on the bill until after the general election, which is on 23 September. 

Ministry regulatory policy group manager Hannah Cameron says the Government's intention is to pass the bill this year, although as timing has not yet been determined, it is not possible to say if this will be before the election. 

"The Government is committed to establishing a new regulatory regime for natural health and supplementary products, which has an emphasis on protecting the consumer," she says. 

She did not answer questions about why the bill had been delayed for such a long time. 

The lack of movement is causing consternation among natural health products makers, many of whom believe the regulations will bring legitimacy to the sector. 

However, there has also been opposition..

NZ First leader Winston Peters has become the latest in a series of vocal opponents to the bill, saying it creates a regulatory Mt Everest out of a molehill and needs to be scrapped in a ress release on 17 May.

"This Bill is regulatory overkill and the more New Zealand First looks into it, the more we realise the Natural Health Products Bill is a solution looking for a problem," Mr Peters says.

"There is no way New Zealand First will support the creation of more bureaucracy that will kneecap New Zealand exporters."

The industry group that represents more than 80% of the country's natural products companies, NPNZ says it is disappointed by Mr Peters' claims and that the bill will benefit the sector despite a vocal minority of detractors.

Ms Quesnel calls for properly informed debate about the Natural Health Products Bill saying delays at passing it into law are bad for business and bad for consumers.

She extends an invitation to Mr Peters to meet with NPNZ and some of its members that export to enable him to gain the true picture of the bill's importance. 

Last year, the Natural Health Alliance, an advocacy group claiming to represent around 70 small and medium-sized natural health companies, called for the bill to be withdrawn as new regulations will make it too expensive for smaller companies to function. 

NPNZ has described this opposition as hollow and based on misinformation. 

"We feel that the Ministry of Health has bent over backwards to consult all interested parties so as to ensure that the legislation is workable from an industry and consumer perspective," Ms Quesnel toldPharmacy Todayin April last year. 

"It has, therefore, been disappointing to learn of considerable scaremongering and misinformation from some quarters who claim that consumers will no longer be able to access many natural ­products." 

 
 
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