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Canada publishes new health products regs, discusses fortification


Canada saw the official publication of the Natural Health Products Regulations this week, announced by Minister of Health, the Honourable Anne McLellan.

The regulations aim to allow Canadian consumers to make more confident and informed decisions about the use of natural health products by calling for improved product labelling, good manufacturing practices, product and site licensing, and provisions for a full range of health claims to be supported by evidence.

Canada's health agency will also hold a meeting for stakeholders on the new food fortification policy in Ottawa next week. The revision of Canada's food fortification policy was launched by Health Canada in 1998 in response to concerns from some sectors of the food industry and consumers that current regulations are overly restrictive. The new policy is expected to establish a new category of discretionary fortification and an expanded category of special purpose foods.

New legislation is likely to use a new reference value, the Tolerable Upper Levels of Intake (UL), a recently-established threshold to assess exposure of the population to intakes that pose a risk to health, established by experts, jointly funded by Canada and the US. The new ULs allow Health Canada to quantify the point at which consumption of vitamins and minerals could lead to adverse health effects, it said.

Health Canada, the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture have jointly commissioned the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) to study the issue of how to use the new ULs in determining nutrition policy and regulations. The IOM advice is due back to both Canada and the US by the end of September 2003.

The advice will not impede progress on the policy revision but will have an impact on decisions on specific food fortification requests from food companies wanting to add nutrients to their food products at levels greater than are currently permitted in Canada, said Health Canada .

Decisions on specific requests from companies to increase fortification have been deferred until fall 2003.