Don’t stop Bill C-51, stop the hysterics!

Lately, I’ve been hit with a spate of petitions to sign and YouTubes to watch, all claiming that a certain bill currently before the House of Commons will make it illegal for you to grow garlic or take Vitamin C. Most of the well-meaning but ill-informed souls who keep sending me this stuff haven’t actually troubled to read the bill.

But trust me, folks, it’s worth the trouble to read. It will calm your spinning mind and slow your palpitating heart, all naturally. Bill C-51 is not going to send the feds out to confiscate your comfrey or take away your tulsi. It doesn’t grant them that power. What it does is require that all patented natural health products sold in stores receive identification numbers, similar to the system already in place for drugs, and health product companies will have to be licensed–i.e. pass muster as safe and reliable–with Health Canada before their products can be placed on store shelves.

Contrary to the C-51 naysayers’ hysteria, this does NOT mean that “70% of all natural products could disappear from store shelves”–a nice round figure, which I suspect is vital if you’re pulling things out of your ass. What it means is that most existing products which are known to be safe and reliable, will stay right where they are, and instead, anything new and/or potentially risky will be more closely monitored. C-51 will also facilitate the recall of anything found to be dangerous, or just plain not living up to its manufacturer’s claims. I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with that, can you?

Well, okay…I can imagine profitable “health product” corporations having a problem with that, all right. Especially those that are currently unregulated or underregulated, as “natural health products” often are. But a lot of reputable natural health product companies haven’t jumped on the “Stop C-51” bandwagon. You’d think they would if they were really threatened…wouldn’t you?

Now, let’s take a closer look at who’s behind this whole C-51 tempest in a chamomile tea pot. A MAIL-ORDER SUPPLEMENT CORPORATION. And one dealing in expensive supplements with extravagant health claims attached. Claims which, incidentally, have endangered the lives and health of their defrauded customers. And which have, in consequence, gotten Health Canada down on them like a duck on a junebug.

Ah, you say. So that’s where all this talk of raids comes from–someone who’s actually been raided! But that’s just one company, you say. There are thousands more. So, whom have any of these innocent little “natural health products” harmed? And in what ways? And would tighter regulation of them really benefit us consumers?

I’m glad you asked.

Remember Cellasene? I do. My local health food shop, where I routinely buy my Vitamin B complex, was promoting it heavily in 1999–it appeared right next to the cash register. Cellasene was “natural”–well, as natural as something heavily processed (by Rexall Drug Corp.!) and sold in a soft-gel capsule can be. And it claimed to rid women of their pesky cellulite by improving their circulation and speeding up their metabolism. A miracle! proclaimed the media, and women rushed out to drop fat wads of dough on the product, which cost more than $100 for a one-month supply (to be consumed indefinitely if one didn’t want the cellulite coming back).

But here’s the harm part: Instead of dissolving cellulite and making ladies’ thighs nice and sleek, Cellasene only made their wallets slimmer. Worse, it turned out to be so loaded with iodine that it ended up putting users’ health at risk. Women began reporting hair loss and skin rashes as a result of taking it–both classic signs of thyroid malfunction due to iodine overdose. Then came a class action lawsuit, and a crackdown in the US, and now I’m not seeing Cellasene being sold here anymore. Go figure–Health Canada didn’t like Cellasene any more than it did EMPowerPlus.

Health product regulation forced at least a closer look at the dangers of unregulated remedies, and as a user of natural remedies myself, I’m glad–I don’t want to spend $100 a month for a false hope, let alone one that could kill me. However, I’m still concerned about caveat emptor, which seems to be the going rule in the health-product marketplace. There is a crying need for more regulation when it comes to what gets sold for profit.

Happily, health product regulation is what C-51 is all about. It builds and expands on existing food, drug and natural-products legislation. No one who really cares about her health (or that of her wallet) could have a problem with that!

And if you doubt me, please also read what the CBC have reported, and what the Canadian Health Food Association have to say. The latter is one of those who will actually be affected by C-51, and they say they want only its imprecise language about “practitioners” and prescibing cleared up, not the whole thing scrapped.

It’s time to tune out the “Stop the bill that will kill our profits by denying us the right to make extravagant claims” lobby, who would have us believe that the sky is going to fall, along with black helicopters from the feds, in our own gardens, right in the peppermint patch. All this hysteria is bad for the heart and worse for the brain.

That’s why I’m not watching any astroturf videos, I’m not signing any astroturf petitions, and I’m not going to have any more patience left for those who cannot and will not go to the trouble to read and understand a piece of legislation before they raise a big, fat, ginger-scented stink about it–at the behest of an astroturfing “health product” corporation. Skepticism is also a natural health product, but since it doesn’t cost a thing and generates no profits, it doesn’t sell all that well. Still, it’s the best remedy we have for astroturf-induced hysteria. So please, take a big dose of it, folks, and DON’T call me in the morning.

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