Dr Guy Hatchard
In 2011, the Government and the Green Party promised a law that would encourage the use of Natural Health Products alongside conventional medicine as a precursor to an integrated, science-based approach to health. Instead the law has emerged from the corridors of power as a draconian and restrictive approach which is very different from the integrative approach to medicine which is beginning to flourish overseas.
The Bill has adopted a list of 5500 controlled substances from Australia and Canada which means that its provisions are similar to the Trans-Tasman Therapeutic Products Agreement proposed in 2006 which was later abandoned after being roundly rejected by the NZ public.
Because the permitted natural ingredient list contains approximately 3000 chemicals and synthetics in addition to herbs; it will allow products labelled as natural to contain synthetic additives thereby debasing the meaning of the word natural, which will confuse and disadvantage the public.
It enshrines in law the idea that serious illness cannot be benefited by Natural Health Products despite the growing scientific evidence published around the world that nutrition and traditional medicines can have a huge beneficial impact on cancers, heart disease, digestive and respiratory illness, and other chronic illness.
It restricts free speech about the health benefits of food and introduces chilling penalties of up to $250,000 for those who communicate the benefits of natural products without first obtaining Government permission.
It places pharmaceutical regulators with no interest or expertise in natural health in charge of our food and health choices. These same people will adjudicate on traditional Ayurvedic, Chinese, Maori, and herbal systems of medicines. This is contrary to assurances given by the Hon. Johnathan Coleman to Parliament that Medsafe would not administer the Bill and product suppliers would be able to self-certify compliance.
The Government has tried to justify the Bill by saying that it will ensure the safety of the public, but no evidence of risk has been presented. It fact evidence shows it is far more dangerous to go out to eat in a restaurant or consume a bowl of salad at home than it is to take a Natural Health Product. Therefore there is no justification for introducing pharmaceutical style regulations.
It is a Henry VIII Bill, containing enabling and regulatory provisions which allow the Ministry of Health to take decisions for any reasons it believes to be relevant. This is poorly written legislation which is open to abuse, misunderstanding and litigation.
It contains a clause which prevents unfairly treated individuals and firms from asking a court of law to uphold the safeguards contained in the Bill. The only redress available is to ask the Authority to reconsider its decisions. This will frustrate justice and enable the Authority to ignore matters of fact.
Because there has been no credible attempt to rationalise the provisions of the Natural Health Products Bill with the Medicines Act 1981 and the Food Bill, it contains a hidden mechanism which allows pharmaceutical companies to gain effective patents over health giving traditional herbs which has already been exploited in Australia and will now be available here.
It wastes money and resources on restricting the natural health choices of the public, while serious and growing problems such as childhood obesity, hypertension, ADHD, and anxiety, which are largely caused or complicated by poor diet and nutrition, are almost completely ignored.
It places an additional huge cost on the natural health products industry through onerous regulations and charges which will increase the cost of products and likely ensure small and even medium sized companies have to go out of business as happened in Australia where dozens of firms have been forced to close their doors and traditional medicine suppliers have all but disappeared.
It allows unhealthy foods and products including tobacco, sugary drinks, and alcohol to continue to be sold, while restricting healthy choices. How irresponsible is this, and what a complete waste of resources?
Dr Guy Hatchard, a life-long Natural Health Practitioner, was earlier Natural Health Products Director at Genetic ID, a global food testing company. He is working with an alliance of Natural Health companies, practitioners, and individuals to mount a legal challenge to the Natural Health Products Bill.