THE HERB FARM'S SUBMISSION ON THE THERAPEUTIC PRODUCTS BILL
About our company:
The Herb Farm is an iconic business in the Manawatu region manufacturing natural skincare and topical healing products on-site at our destination in Ashhurst, as well as being a visitor attraction with a café, retail shop and we recently celebrated our 30th anniversary. Founded in 1993 by Herbalist Lynn Kirkland with a passion to share her belief in the power of nature and herbs, it now is owned by her daughter, Sarah Cowan, employs 30 people and we distribute our products through over 200 retail outlets in New Zealand as well as Hong Kong and Australia.
While we support the need for updates to the regulations around Natural Health Products, we do not support the bill in its current form. Our concern lies in four key area, as outlined below.
- Risk-Proportionate Regulation
In the Regulatory Impact Statement, there is a distinct lack of validated evidence around the level of risk of Natural Health Products (NHPs). There is risk with all products but, with further research, it would be evident that Natural Health Products have a much lower risk profile and including them in this bill is not justified and is heavy-handed.
The proposed ‘white-list’ approach to allowable ingredients is not appropriate for the risk profile of natural products and a more suitable ‘black-list’ of ingredients should instead be established, to avoid unnecessary costs and an unreasonable administration process.
The definition of a Natural Health Product in the bill is overly broad and there is significant concern around what will constitute a NHP, with the possibility of cosmetic products and very low-risk topical products falling under this definition. Again, this is unsuitable for the nature and risk profile of these products, and common sense should reign. A standalone bill specifically for NHPs is a much more fit-for-purpose and a more reasonable proposition.
- Consumer Choice and Costs
The heart of our business is our customers and they have been for 30 years. Everything we do is to help, care for and support our customers – leaving a positive impact on the world and people’s lives.
Consumers have the right to choose, yes they also have the right to be kept safe and regulation has a place in this. However, the bill does not achieve this for the NHP industry, with products that have a low-risk profile. What it is likely to achieve is increased costs and restricted access to NHP’s that consumers wish to choose.
NHP’s form an important part of promoting and supporting people’s health and wellbeing and the government and related regulation should have this at the front and centre of it – allowing extensive and affordable access to NHP’s to the people of New Zealand.
- Role of the Regulator
The bill fails to clearly address and specify the role of the regulator and the scope of powers. There needs to be full transparency around this as it is a crucial role in the execution of the proposed bill.
There is a lack of independence within the role as it is housed within the Ministry of Health and accountable to the Chief Executive and required by law to act consistently with “directions given by the Minister”.
The Natural Health Products industry requires a regulator that is an expert in this field, knowledge of the ingredients used and the risk profiles of such. An expert such as this would have a suitable qualification such as a Medical Herbalist or Naturopath. How else can this industry be fairly and risk-proportionately regulated.
This bill aims to regulate NHP’s alongside medicines and medical devices and it is simply not possible to have one regulator with enough expertise across all these fields to be fair and reasonable to the NHP sector.
There is also a distinct lack of detail around the additional costs of regulation for the NHP industry – in a field with a high number of SME’s, this is of deep concern.
- Lack of Clear and Concise Information
As previously mentioned, we recognise and support the need for more modern regulations for the Natural Health Products industry. We advocate for these regulations to be risk-proportionate, industry specific and reflecting the common-sense nature that New Zealand is known for.
This bill is concerning in its lack of clarity in the key areas of information needed to ascertain the full impact on the Natural Products Industry. It is simply not possible to reasonably proceed with a bill that lacks such key detail.
The Herb Farm has over 30 years of experience in the natural industry and has seen first hand how nature can help improve people’s lives. We are also in a frontline position to see the risks and benefits of Natural Health Products and the overall low risk profile of them.
It is deeply concerning that, under this proposed bill, the people of New Zealand will be faced with more expensive, and limited access to Natural Health Products. We strongly believe that the right to choose and ease of access to these products should be not only inherent to everyone but encouraged as part of the overall strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. This bill does not support this.
The backbone of New Zealand is small and medium businesses (SME’s), we are renowned for our work ethic and “get on and get it done” attitudes. SME’s have been under enormous pressure in recent years, navigating the unprecedented challenges of covid and now increasing costs and contracting markets. It appears to be counter-intuitive to now be proposing a bill which will put further pressure, and additional costs on the Natural Product Industry, which has many SME’s. Regulations and new bills should be focused on encouraging innovative and making operating a business easier at this time, and although the bill proports to support innovation, the evidence and logic around this is questionable.
Our government has been elected by the people of New Zealand and works for the people and for the businesses in New Zealand. We hope that you are now listening objectively to the deep and justified concerns from not only the natural industry but any consumer who values natural products.
It is unacceptable for a bill of this nature, with an overall lack of definition, clarity and conciseness of the future impact on the Natural Health Products industry, to be considered to progress.
In the ‘Regulatory Impact Statement’ there is a clear and valid option (option 2) for a standalone Bill for Natural Health Products, which is a more viable and appropriate option for the industry. Discounting this option as ‘not recommended’ for reasons of pushing through this bill quickly (which is what is apparent from this statement), is unreasonable and not the nature in which bills should be passed in a free and democratic country, such as New Zealand.
Our 30-year-old family business stands to be significantly impacted by this bill, and the uncertainty, additional stress and inability to confidently plan for the future, caused by this proposed bill, is unwarranted.
We have had government support for exporting and for expanding our business over the years and we hope the government will realise that this bill does not support our industry and reconsiders its position on the NHP inclusion.
We want to be around for another 30 years helping support people’s wellbeing.
We ask that for the natural products industry, our New Zealand grown family business, and for our future generations, that you remove Natural Health Products from this bill and pursue more appropriate means of regulating this industry.
MAKE YOUR OWN SUBMISSION ON THE THERAPEUTIC PRODUCTS BILL
You can make a submission here before midnight, 5th March when submissions close.
One of our Retailers, Health Post, has written an informative article about the Therapeutic Products Bill and how to make a submission. Visit their website to learn more.