The bill, proposed by NZ First's Mark Patterson, comes after the planned new regulations, detailed in the Natural Health Products Bill, were removed from the parliamentary process last November.
This was heavily criticised by industry trade body Natural Health Products New Zealand (NHPNZ), which had lobbied hard for the new rules to replace current legislation, which dates back to the mid-1980s.
Now, Paterson has tabled his own bill, with the backing of the New Zealand Wellness Association (NZWA), which says it aims to provide a "collective voice for the progressive health and wellness industry".
The association opposed the Natural Health Products Bill, arguing it would place heavy financial burdens on smaller businesses and raise barriers to market entry.
But its general manager Joanne Bisset said the new bill was "a great opportunity" for the New Zealand natural health industry to work with Parliament to create a regulatory framework that was "risk-proportionate and allows consumers to make informed choices about the products they buy for their health".
She added: "Under current legislation, suppliers are severely restricted in what they can say about products, even when there is good-quality research to support their claims. This presents a huge challenge for local suppliers competing in an online market, where offshore suppliers are widely making these restricted claims."
The organisation believes the key benefits of the proposal would be
- The ability for suppliers to make evidence-backed health claims
- Requiring health claims to disclose the level of evidence to support the claim, based on a 10-level reliability scale.
- The regulator's ability to undertake spot-checks for quality-assurance purposes.
- More active enforcement against mislabelling, including much larger fines.
It also proposes establishing a Health Supplements Office, which would be permitted to ban 'unsafe ingredients' and oversee the regulatory process.
NHPNZ's public affairs director Alison Quesnel told us the organisation was now assessing the details of the bill. She said she planned to meet with NZ First and NZWA to further discuss the proposals.
However, she stressed that the likelihood of such a bill making it all the way to the statute book was relatively slim.
"Private Members' bills are drawn at random from the ballot box, so there is no knowing when — or if — it will be drawn. Even if it does get drawn (many never do), it would need to go through three readings and a full select committee process, so it would be a long way from becoming law," she added.