The long-awaited bill will regulate natural health products sold and marketed directly to consumers, and NPNZ believes it will provide a higher level of assurance that products are safe, approved, effective and contain what is stated on the label.
It was originally envisaged that the bill would be in the form of a ANZTPA (joint Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Act), but has developed over many years as a much lighter New Zealand-only regulatory model. It is still awaiting its third reading.
While NPNZ and its members support the bill, some manufacturers are opposed to it.
One businessman who has gone public with his opposition is Graeme Clegg, chairman of New Image Group, which includes direct selling business New Image International and manufacturing arm NIG Nutritionals. Earlier this month, he issued a press release stating he was concerned about the impact of excessive bureaucracy and called for the bill to be permanently dropped.
“There has been no threat to public health identified and no instances recorded of health issues associated with supplements made in this country,” he said.
“With the huge escalation of health care costs to the nation, the Government should be supporting any initiative for the people to take responsibility for their own health through awareness and prevention. Additional costs for no benefit just increase prices.”
He also said online ordering had overtaken the proposed legislation, adding: “Cheaper supplements may be imported to New Zealand for personal consumption right now without any monitoring.”
According to Clegg, The Maori Party, New Zealand First and the Direct Sales Association of New Zealand and the Employers and Manufacturers Association have also been publicly critical of the potential for excessive bureaucracy.
Nevertheless, NPNZ maintains that New Zealand is the only first world country without a modern regulatory system for natural health and supplementary products.
Fiveof its members, Vitaco chief operating officer Roger Scott, Go Healthy director Kurt Renner, New Zealand Health managing director Minesh Patel, Phytomed technical director Phil Rasmussen and Artemis founder Sandra Clair say they are frustrated at the amount of misinformation being circulated about the bill.
Speaking on behalf of the group, NPNZ's corporate affairs director Alison Quesnel said virtually every natural health product manufacturer
she has spoken with – from very large companies to small ones – support legislation because it will be good for business, consumers, the natural health industry, and therefore, the economy.
"Ongoing delays to the bill's passage are not serving any of us well. Nor is it helping consumers or local manufacturers who only sell their products here and want to be able to talk more openly with their consumers about what their products can and will do for them."
For example, the current law prevents natural health product companies from making therapeutic claims about either traditional evidence or successfully clinically trialled products, unless the product is licensed under the more expensive pharmaceutical medicine category, she added.
She said NPNZ would continue to work with the Ministry of Health to achieve the best possible regulations.
“Aligning our regulations to be more like those of our major overseas markets will make it easier to sell New Zealand-made products there and could potentially even provide automatic barrier-free access into some countries," she said.
"This legislation can't come soon enough."