by Mojo Mathers
Today the Natural Health Products bill passed it second reading in the house so I thought it would be a great opportunity to reflect on what we have managed to achieve, and what the bill does and doesn’t cover.
One of the best outcomes of this bill is that it ensures that New Zealand retains control of setting the rules around natural health products rather than handing that control over to a heavy handed trans-Tasman regulator as was originally proposed .
I would like to acknowledge the hard work that my predecessor, former Green MP Sue Kedgley, did to get this bill underway in the house in the previous term, and for her steadfast commitment to establishing a low risk regulatory scheme that is appropriate to the low risk nature of natural health products.
Currently natural health products are unregulated, meaning that there fewer rules for these products than for food products. Clearly this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs.
We need sensible rules that protect both consumers and manufacturers so that consumers know what they see is what they are getting and our reputation as a producer of quality natural health products is maintained.
A major goal of the bill is to ensure that the rules balance the need for protection with the risk of the products involved (which in general is low) and don’t reduce consumer choice because of excessive compliance costs. We are pleased that the government has agreed to cover the costs of policy and regulatory advice and enforcement as well as the capital costs of setting up the scheme.
Some submitters expressed concerns that the bill would affect their ability to make their own herbal remedies. These concerns are unfounded. The bill does not apply to products prepared by individuals for personal use, so people will still be able to prepare home remedies. It also does not apply to products made by practitioners specifically for an individual on request (which includes many traditional preparations including Rongoā.)
We are particularly pleased that at our request a schedule of approved pharmacopeia has been included in the Bill. This schedule will make the process of approving traditional claims for low risk conditions very straightforward for many natural health products and help keep compliance costs down.
Homeopathic products are also exempt from product notification, though they will not be able to make claims of health benefit, because of the impracticality of auditing these products where the active ingredient is less than 20 parts per million.
It has been an interesting experience working on this bill. The government have committed to ensuring that detailed regulatory work will be undertaken in consultation with the industry, and public.
As part of our memorandum of understanding agreement , the Government has also agreed the Green Party will be involved at every stage of the development of these regulations. I am looking forwards to being part of this process and working towards the best possible outcome for consumers and producers alike.