Why Americans Should Take a Close Look at Canadian-Made Supplements
Dietary supplement is a broad category that includes everything from nutritional supplements, vitamins, minerals, herbal products, omega-3s, and probiotics to traditional Chinese medicines. These products are regulated as dietary supplements in the US and Natural Health Products (NHPs) in Canada.
Supplements from Canada are the best choice for all North American consumers. There is a very simple reason for this – stringent regulatory requirements. In the U.S., anyone can start selling supplement products out of a garage. Supplements in Canada, however, require pre-market approval and licensing from the government before they can be sold in the market. This requires a Product License with an NPN number and a manufacturing Site License.
What’s an NPN number?
In Canada, every supplement must be approved and authorized by the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), Health Canada, as a licensed Natural Health Product (NHP). Each NHP is assigned with a unique Natural Product Number (NPN). An NPN is an indication that the product has been assessed by Health Canada and deemed to be safe, effective, and of highest quality. The numbers, that follow the identifier NPN, can be used to find quality reports and consumer experiences for any supplement.
How did Canada become the home of high-quality functional supplements in which consumers around the world place their confidence?
Canada has implemented a framework of registration and regulation for dietary supplements called the Natural Health Product Regulations, which are part of Canada’s Food and Drugs Act. Under these regulations, NHPs include vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics, and other products such as amino acids and essential fatty acids. Canadian law treats these NHPs as “drugs”, whereas the American counterparts of these products are treated as “food” under a 25-year-old law known as DSHEA, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.
Under the DSHEA act of 1994, supplements are mainly unregulated in US and do not require any proof of effectiveness or safety before being sold in the market. Manufacturers can make claims of almost any benefit for a product as long as it is accompanied by the statement “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” There is no single source of information about product labeling, dosing, and ingredients. The US Pharmacopoeia (USP) certifies quality of nutritional supplements, but only a handful of approximately 2000 US manufacturers subscribe to the USP program, and only for some of their supplements.
In Canada, however, manufacturers of NHPs must submit evidence of “efficacy, quality, and safety” to Health Canada before the product can be launched in the market. NHPs are required to provide Finished Product Specification (FPS) that must include information on identity, quantity, and potency of ingredients. FPS must also include information on purity with analytical results on contaminants such as microbials, heavy metals, residue, pesticides, foreign matter etc. The strict standards for quality and efficacy apply not only to Canadian products sold in the Canadian market, but also to Canadian products exported to the United States.
Canada also has stricter laws about the inclusion of allergy-causing substances in supplements. For instance, NHPs should clearly be labeled with gluten-containing ingredients, or where gluten is present as a result of processing, a statement should appear on the label indicating the presence of gluten. US manufacturers, however, are not required to report the presence of gluten in their products (although many do).
Manufacturing oversight is another area in which Canadian supplements prove to be superior to their US counterparts. In the United States, there is no oversight of the manufacturing process for dietary supplements, although the Federal Trade Commission (not the Food and Drug Administration) may demand recall of a product after reports of harm to consumers. In Canada, a Site License is required for any site that manufactures, processes, packages, labels, imports, exports, and/or stores NHPs. NNHPD grants licenses after inspection of manufacturing facilities to ascertain that Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and well-controlled and sanitary procedures are followed.
And even when things go wrong, a Canadian supplement is superior. The database of NHPs licensed in Canada makes it easier to identify, report, and correct problems that may arise with supplements. There is no equivalent to this in the US.
You can rest be assured that Canadian supplements are made to the highest standards, and you are getting the benefits that you have a right to expect.