New Zealand continues to be under pressure to harmonise to the medicines-based legislature of Australia.
It's worth remembering that the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the statutory authority in Australia that oversees medicines legislation (which includes all natural healthcare products in that country), master-minded the biggest, and many would say not largely unwarranted, recall in the history of the natural products industry.
Is this the model we want applied worldwide? It seems hardly in the interests of preventative healthcare. The issue of quality control - which certainly requires attention in certain sectors of the industry (among a small minority of players) - should perhaps not be confused with the perceived need by some legislators for a medical model for natural healthcare....
It is called Trans-Tasman harmonization, and it's an effort to make the laws the same on both sides of the Tasman Sea, the body of water separating Australia from New Zealand. In this case, we are talking about the laws regulating the production and sale of food supplements, products containing nutrients in concentrated form and in health-effective quantities. Supplements are regulated as medicines - therapeutic goods - in Australia, while they are more liberally treated and more widely available as foods, according to long established tradition, in New Zealand.
The effort to bring about harmonization seems to be part of a world wide drive to introduce restrictions on supplement availability, which was started in the European Union some years ago and is now in full swing in Canada, in the USA, and now in the area around the Tasman Sea. Australia has recently clamped down on supplements in a major way.
New Zealand has called upon its Parliament to investigate and recommend how supplements should be regulated. A Select Committee was established which heard numerous witnesses and is about to wrap up its work. In a somewhat surprising move, the New Zealand government has now stated that it will not be waiting for the Select Committee's report but will go ahead with harmonization towards Australia's restrictive system, disregarding the wishes of the citizens of New Zealand and the work done by its own Parliament.
Sue Kedgley, member of the New Zealand Parliament, says this decision by the government is nothing less than scandalous.
Government jumps the gun on year-long inquiry
Green MP Sue Kedgley says it is scandalous that the Government is to completely ignore the findings of a Select Committee inquiry into how to regulate dietary supplements.
In answer to Ms Kedgley's question in Parliament today, the Health Minister admitted that the Government has decided to go ahead and regulate dietary supplements through a Trans-Tasman Therapeutics Products Agency, instead of waiting till the Select Committee made its own recommendations next week.
"Clearly the Government had made up its mind before the inquiry had begun its work," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson. "It has turned a year-long inquiry into a farce, wasted taxpayers' money and insulted the hundreds of people who made submissions to the Health select committee inquiry in good faith.
"The government's arrogant decision is an insult to the democratic process. What's the point of having parliamentary select committee inquiries if the government simply ignores them?" Ms Kedgley asked. She pointed out that the joint Health Ministry-TGA website stated that the Government would not make a final decision until after the Select Committee inquiry had been concluded.
Ms Kedgley said the overwhelming majority of submitters, including from the dietary supplements industry, were totally opposed to the regulation of dietary supplements through a trans-Tasman agency, because of the higher compliance costs and loss of sovereignty that would inevitably result.
The Health Select Committee's report into how best to regulate dietary supplements will be reported back early next week.