Every week, Daniel Chiang, a nutritionist and clinic owner at the Inspired Life Health Centre on Danforth Avenue, treats more than a dozen patients, offering them “alternative medicine options” to help heal ailments ranging from the flu to digestive problems.
Sometimes, he suggests home remedies; other times it may be a nutritional supplement. He has always been able to recommend or suggest as he chooses. But now he worries this could change with Bill C-51, legislation — making its way through Parliament — that will modernize the Food and Drugs Act for the first time in more than 50 years.
“There is a lot of uncertainty around the bill and how it will impact access to natural health products. No one seems to be quite sure,” Chiang said. The confusion has generated controversy. Earlier this month, hundreds of people turned up at rallies across the country to protest the bill.
The Food and Drugs Act regulates the production, transport and sale of food, drugs, contraceptive devices and cosmetics, with a focus on ensuring products are safe, ingredients are disclosed and there are no false or exaggerated health claims on the product label.
But critics — who have been carefully monitoring the progress of the bill, which is awaiting second reading — fear changes to the act will restrict access to natural health products, delay their approval and give the health ministry unprecedented powers of enforcement.
Critics fear the ministry would be able to suspend or cancel clinical trials, disclose and demand confidential information, and impose costly fines for minor infractions — with no mention of an appeal process after such decisions. Maximum fines for an indictable offence under the act could increase from $5,000 to as much as $5 million.