Industry figures were told about the delay at a series of Health Canada workshops organized over recent weeks, according to the website Canada.com.
But earlier this Fall, the nation’s health minister, Leona Aglukkaq told Parliament that a new rules to control unlicensed natural health products would be implemented by next March. The government also expected to remedy the product licensing backlog by the same time.
Withdrawn or rejected
Since the country’s controversial Natural Health Products (NHP) Directorate was launched in 2004, about half of the 26,000 products seeking registration have been withdrawn or rejected and a further 12,000 require processing before the deadline of April, 2010, reports the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA).
The directorate must be amended if the Canadian functional foods market is to avoid severe long-term regulatory restriction, it added.
At present, companies may sell unlicensed natural health product if they have applied successfully for a product licence from Health Canada's natural health product directorate and the department is unaware of any health risk associated with the product.
Natural health products include teas, vitamins, mineral supplements, herbal products, exotic substances and several novel foods and drinks.
Of the nearly 42,000 product licence applications received since 2004, Health Canada says the directorate has completed about 73 per cent of the applications.
But the association could not confirm to NutraIngredientsUSA.com whether the March deadline would remain in place.
Carl Carter, CHFA director of regulatory affairs and policy development told Canada.com: "It (March 2010) is by no means, a firm compliance and enforcement date, that if you have don't have a natural product number by that date, we're going to start taking your products off the market or potentially charge you under the regulations or the act."
Enforcing the new licencsing procedure may be delayed until 2011 to allow Health Canada to develop its compliance policy, he added.