Health Canada Warnings
Health Canada warns consumers to use caution when purchasing natural health products, especially if they are buying them online or from an unknown source. There is an increasing problem with products that may not have been approved for sale in Canada, but which are readily available online and at some retail locations. Products include vitamin and mineral supplements, herbal supplements and treatments, and other items labelled as natural health products. They may contain adulterated ingredients, such as prescription and non-prescription drugs that are not listed on the package, and they could also contain contaminants.
All approved natural health products in Canada will have either a Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM). If a product does not have either of those, consumers could be at risk for side effects associated with hidden ingredients. It may be difficult to know what dose of the medication you are receiving and whether it is safe, possible drug interactions or allergies associated with the drug, or if the active drug has been pulled from the market due to complications or other health concerns.
The most common products that have been promoted and sold as natural health products without the approval of Health Canada, and which have been found to contain hidden and potentially harmful ingredients and drugs, include those used for weight loss, sleep problems, erectile dysfunction, and to address inflammatory issues. Even when purchasing natural health products that have been approved for sale in Canada, it is very important to talk to your doctor about all medications or natural treatments you are using, as they might interact with each other.
Health Canada is updating Canadians on probiotic natural health products found on the Canadian market that are labelled as vegan or not containing dairy but that may contain trace amounts of milk from ingredients used in the production process. The nutrient solutions, called culture media, that are used to produce probiotics include a source of protein that is frequently, but not always, derived from milk or soy. For products formulated as pills or dry powders, the manufacturer usually removes most of the culture media before freeze-drying; however, traces of milk, soy, or any other priority allergen included can remain in the product in quantities sufficient to provoke an allergic reaction in highly sensitive individuals.
These companies have recently agreed to pull their products from the market to obtain appropriate labelling, but some retailers and consumers might still have stock on hand:
- Friendly Flora from Avena Originals
- Healthy Skin with Greens+ from Genuine Health
Similar products that companies pulled in December last year after they were found to contain trace amounts of milk or soy include:
- Saccharomyces boulardii from Advanced Orthomolecular Research Inc. (AOR)
- Herbasaurs bifidophilus for Kids and Acidophilus bifidobacterium, both from Nature’s Sunshine Products of Canada Ltd.
- Cultures de Yogourt 2 Milliards from Bio-Dis
People with milk or soy allergies can experience a range of mild to severe symptoms when exposed to even small amounts of these proteins. Symptoms may include breathing difficulties that, in some cases, can be life threatening.
What should consumers do?
- Speak to your healthcare practitioner with any questions or concerns regarding further use of these products
- Report any adverse reaction potentially related to these products to Health Canada
- Contact any of the companies directly concerning the individual products
For more information, contact Health Canada’s public enquiries line at 613-957-2991, or toll free at 1-866-225- 0709. To report a suspected adverse reaction to these or other health products, please contact the Canada Vigilance Program toll-free at 1-866-234-2345, or online at: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/medeffect.