There has been an enormous outcry about the recent South African legislation regarding natural health products. And, although I agree with some of the concerns, I haven’t signed the petition.
As far as I understand it, the new laws focus on three things: Quality, Safety, Efficacy.
1. Quality – manufacturers of natural medicines must now manufacture according to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Most of us do this already. It involves simple cleanliness, safety, record-keeping, traceability and quality checks on raw materials and finished products. If you are buying products from companies who don’t practice GMP, please stop. GMP is a good thing.
2. Safety – from now on, any product on the shelves of shops must be proven to be safe. The burden of proof is related to the risk of the substance used. The riskier the product, the harder the manufacturer needs to work to prove safety. I don’t think any of us could possibly dispute the value of this.
3. Efficacy – if a claim is made that a natural product cures a disease, this must be proven. Fair enough?
The belief amongst many people is that natural medicine is completely safe. The truth is that sometimes this is not true. What comes to my mind immediately is Ephedrine. Now, Ephedrine (similar to the hormone Adrenalin) is an extremely potent ingredient of some herbs that were widely used in slimming products. Some of the adverse effects of these products, before they were banned by the FDA, were: kidney failure, seizures, heart attacks and even death.
Probably the biggest risk is that often, so-called ‘natural products’ actually illegally contain potent pharmaceuticals. 400 products like this have been recalled since 2008. An example – Starcaps, a papaya diet supplement actually contained Bumetanide, a diuretic. Other products have been found to contain Viagra, anabolic steroids and even Sibutramine, a weight loss drug banned in 2010 because it was found to increase heart attacks and strokes.
The pet supplement industry has always been regulated in this way. If we make a claim on our label, we must provide proof of efficacy before we can legally sell that product. We have also always provided proof of the safety of our ingredients, including any interactions with drugs or other herbs. Our factories are GMP compliant and we keep meticulous records.
None of this, as far as I know, has resulted in any massive job losses in the pet industry. If anything, it has created jobs for skilled people to monitor and maintain compliance.
The actual ability of the MCC to effectively police these new laws has yet to be tested, that is undeniable. But still, I welcome this new development. I do not think it will result in ‘huge job losses and the economy losing millions’. I do think it will result in a safer, fairer and better natural product choice for consumers.
So strange that our pets seem to be better protected than we are!