What did one natural health product say to the other? “Hey, can I get your number…”
After coming down with a mild case of the flu, instead of heading to the pharmacy I actually strolled over to the tea aisle of my local grocery store, during a shopping trip with my significant other. While he went in search of our food basics, I perused the shelves for an herbal remedy to get my symptoms in check. When he found me, I was in my own little world, carefully turning over a box of echinacea tea in my hands in every direction imaginable in search of some important text. Looking at me in a highly confused fashion, he asked what could possibly be so interesting about tea? His curious question jolted me out of my trance-like state, and I smiled as I explained to him that what I was actually looking for was the tea's credentials, otherwise known in the world of natural health products, as the NPN – Natural Product Number. If all I was interested in was flavour, this wouldn't be an issue, but since this tea claims to impact my health, this eight-digit number is very important.
In Canada, natural health products, are assessed by a division of Health Canada known as the Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD). As more and more Canadians choose to embrace a more holistic lifestyle, natural health products have come out of the woodwork to match this growing demand. In the same way that the government endeavours to preserve minimum standards in our food and pharmaceutical industries, the Natural Health Product Regulations were brought in to force in January 2004 to protect Canadians as they go about their daily purchases of health products. So what does the NPN stand for, you might ask? An NPN signifies that Health Canada has reviewed a company’s application and deemed the product to be safe, effective and of high quality based on the data provided. Additionally, since all natural health products make a claim to improve your life/health in some way, that company must provide scientific evidence that back up their assertions.
While this information is important, you may wonder how it applies to you; just because a natural health product is available at your local grocery store or pharmacy, it does not mean that it has been approved. The onus is on the consumer to check a product's label for either a NPN or DIN-HM (in the case of homeopathic medicines). Vitarock.com ensures that all its natural health product supplements have NPNs. Ok, I know what you are thinking….I have used product XYZ which does not have a natural product number for the last two years, and I feel great. Although this may be true, there is no guarantee that what you are consuming is safe or even contains the ingredients listed on the label. How would you feel if you knew that an unapproved product may contain heavy metals like lead or mercury? Or that the product you are consuming was made by a person who did not practice acceptable health and hygiene, and could contain hairs or other particulates? I always recommend either looking for the NPN on the label or checking Health Canada’s online licensed natural health products database to ensure that a product has been assessed. While natural health products are considered to be low risk when compared to pharmaceuticals, any product we take into our bodies should be held to a higher standard.
If you have any questions regarding what kind of products or ingredients would qualify as a natural health products, food, or cosmetic, we would love to hear from you!