Transcript: Regulating natural supplements - A tough pill to swallow? - Consume This podcast
On this episode we explore the “Therapeutic Products Bill” and the impact the proposed new legislation will have on natural health products, supplements, their consumers and the people who make them. We want to know what you think about these supplements and the proposed regulation, so for the first time ever we open the Consume This phone lines and take your calls!
Jon Duffy: Hi there and welcome to Consume This. My name's Jon Duffy and I would like to introduce one of Consumer NZ's star research writers, Belinda Castles. Hi Belinda.
Belinda Castles: Hi Jon.
Jon Duffy: How's it going?
Belinda Castles: Oh, pretty good. Pretty good. It's Sunny in Gisborne now, so that's a bonus.
Jon Duffy: All right. Yeah. Belinda's beaming in from Gisborne which has been through a bit of a tough time recently, so it's really awesome to have you able to join us.
What we're talking about today is the Therapeutic Products Bill, which is a bit of a mouthful. And we are really interested in this bill, and have primarily been focusing on it because it will include the regulation of sunscreens, but that's actually not what we're gonna talk about today. What we really wanna talk about is natural health products and supplements.
So Belinda, you are a health and nutrition expert here at Consumer NZ. Can you kind of work us through a bit of a definition of natural health products and supplements are?
Belinda Castles: Sure. So natural health products include quite a few different categories. They include herbal remedies, they include vitamin and mineral supplements, traditional Māori remedies, Chinese medicine, homeopathic remedies, and other products based on animal sources such as your fish oil supplements.
What the bill won't regulate is those supplemented foods such as fortified drinks and cereals.
Jon Duffy: Right. So every morning I get up and I have a Berocca cuz it's full of... Oh, I can't really remember what it's for. It's full of good things like vitamins and things that give me energy. Is that the type of thing that's gonna be covered by this?
Belinda Castles: That's correct. So you know, your vitamin Cs, your plant extracts like turmeric. If you can't sleep, some people take magnesium. So all those types of products will be covered, including your Berocca
Jon Duffy: what do people take turmeric for?
Belinda Castles: Well, that's a good question. Um, there's lots of different claims on there for products, but sometimes there's not a lot of efficacy to support it.
Jon Duffy: My wife had me on turmeric pills for a wee while, and I don't, I can't recall why. It was obviously something that's wrong with me, but the pills were enormous. They were like the biggest pills I've ever swallowed. A lot of turmeric.
Belinda Castles: Yeah, well interestingly in Europe the European authority over there said there wasn't enough evidence to support some of the claims on turmeric products. So we are really lagging behind, when it comes to some of the claims that these products are making.
Jon Duffy: Right.
Okay. Belinda, what's this bill about? Like how is it different and what do you think the impacts are gonna be?
Belinda Castles: So at the moment, the current situation doesn't provide adequate levels of protection for consumers.
The new bill's going to rectify some of that. So it will regulate the ingredients that are allowed in these products. It will regulate the claims that can be made about the products, and there's also gonna be a register of therapeutic products, which will be publicly available, so consumers will be able to have a look to see actually what's on the market and what evidence there is for it.
I think also quite importantly, there's going to be penalties for non-compliance. So companies will get a smack on their hand, hefty, hefty fine if they're not towing the line.
Jon Duffy: Alright.
Belinda Castles: But has been quite controversial. A lot of people think that natural health products shouldn't be regulated by government, that they're risk free.
But of course nothing's risk free. There still needs to be consideration about what's in the products, they need to be made properly. And you know, there's been cases where they've been contaminated with ingredients that shouldn't have been in there.
Jon Duffy: Right. Okay.
And it's interesting to note that Rongoā practices are included in the bill.
Has that been a difficult process for Ministry of Health officials to work through, do you think?
Belinda Castles: I think that aspect is very controversial because the practitioners, they believe that these products shouldn't be in the bill. They're concerned that it's gonna affect their ability to provide these products and provide this advice for their people.
So they would actually prefer them to be not in the bill, but I understand they're being consulted with in a separate process.
Jon Duffy: And just as an aside here, we did reach out to the Aotearoa Māori collective, as well as some individual practitioners. They all decline to speak with us for this podcast.
So there we have it.
We're also working on a larger piece on Rongoā practices for the June Consumer Magazine.
So we're kind of doing this podcast because we are really interested in what people think about natural products and supplements. As part of the background research for this and other material that we're producing on the topic, Belinda commissioned some research.
There's some really interesting findings in there. So, Belinda, can you kind of talk us through the headline findings from your market research on the topic?
Belinda Castles: Yeah. We were surprised at just the number of people that actually take natural health products. So we found nearly 80% had taken one in the last 12 months, and of those people that had children nearly half of them were giving their kids some type of supplement. So that was pretty high.
The other thing I found really interesting was that people don't necessarily trust the labels. They're not a hundred percent sure of what's in the product. So there's still a lot of questions even for people that are taking these supplements.
Jon Duffy: Yeah, that point exactly. People, they're still buying them and taking them, but they're doing it what, they're a bit of a leap of faith.
So what else did the survey tell us?
Belinda Castles: One thing that we did discover was that half of the people in our survey don't believe the level of research into natural remedies and supplements is acceptable. So that was pretty high. Even though they were users of supplements themselves, they were a bit like, "Hmm, not sure there's enough research going on in the background."
So that was quite an interesting finding.
Jon Duffy: What's the demographic of people that are most likely to be buying supplements? Do we know that?
Belinda Castles: Well, it depends on the supplements. So we found that younger people are generally more likely to take plant extracts, you know, so your, especially echinacea and your turmeric and those types of products.
We've found that people who use social media are more likely to spend more on supplements. So whether they're being swayed by their peers or by influencers. So that was quite an interesting finding as.
Jon Duffy: So continuing in the vein of gauging public opinion, we're trying something a little bit new in this episode. We are opening the Consume This phone line up and asking you what you think about this issue.
And our first caller is Jacqui Bennett. Hi, Jacqui, can you hear us?
Belinda Castles: Hi Jacqui.
Jacqui Bennetts: I can. Can you hear me?
Jon Duffy: Yes, we can. Hi, welcome to Consume This.
Jacqui Bennetts: Hi. My husband spent ages setting up his gaming gear for me, so I look like a pro!
Jon Duffy: Yeah, that looks like serious, serious Kit.
Jon Duffy: Hey, thank you so much for joining us. This is a bit of an experiment for us. We haven't done something like this before, so we're not really sure how it's gonna go, but we'd love to hear your views.
What do you know about the bill and what's included in it and what are your thoughts?
Jacqui Bennetts: Yeah, I think it's a really good idea. I feel the natural medication, if you like, the supplements area is under-regulated compared to the claims that are put forward for some of these products. You know, they're being treated by the people that are selling them or, or offering them as a health improvement, you know, product, so that some of the claims are actually around curative stuff in some cases. Um, so I think it's reasonable that they should be held to the same standards.
Jon Duffy: Yeah. And, and tell us a bit about your background. I mean, what's your experience with, with natural products and supplements?
Jacqui Bennetts: So, Yeah. Okay. So I'm a, I'm a registered nurse, so that's why I come from a, possibly a slightly cynical perspective, and I really appreciate the kind of effort that goes into keeping people safe with medications. You know, that's part of the role as a nurse. We take it very seriously.
Because I've been working through covid, not as, not on the frontline, I have to say. I work as an office nurse now, if you like. But um, I see the level of distress around people getting misinformation, so that's kind of bleeds over into some of this other natural medicine area as well. So I've started to get a little bit cross with people putting out misinformation. And that's why you're question, you know, triggered something in me.
Cause I feel very strongly that people have to have accurate, truthful, trustworthy information around stuff that they're taking. And I think some areas of the natural supplement stuff it can get a little bit blurred and often that's not intentional. There are definitely grifters out there, but there are a lot of people who are absolutely well-meaning, who really, really want to, to help someone else. And they think that this is something that can help them.
I also have the experience of being a cancer patient. So I had breast cancer a few years ago and I got all kinds of different advice from people about what I should be doing, what I should be eating, and not eating, and avoiding.
And, and, you know, to have to drink vinegar is one of the recommendations that would help cure my cancer because a cancer doesn't like acid. As a nurse, I know that that's not how you cure cancer. That if I drink acid, my body will just neutralize it and get me back into a proper pH for my body, otherwise, I would be really unwell.
And I know they were meaning well, but that's the kind of information that's out there because it's unregulated and people have access to a bit of information.
Belinda Castles: Jacqui, you raise an interesting point. In our survey we found a lot of people get their information from the internet. That can be a little bit dangerous too, because there's often only one side of the story, and also from influencers, social media. So in this day and age, that's where people are getting their information from.
Jacqui Bennetts: Yeah, I agree. I agree. And I think that having the regulatory body in there will help so that before stuff gets to the internet there's some structure around the products that come to the country.
It's been something that I've been thinking about a lot because I'm trying to be really conscious that I don't turn into like an attack dog about people who are wanting to provide these supplements. It'd be very easy to be dismiss them and say they're stupid or that they don't know what they're talking about. And, you know, sometimes they don't have the information. But I try and come from the perspective that they, they genuinely want to help someone. And when they are saying, negative things about the science that's coming from, again, wanting to protect people.
They've been led up this garden path that suggests science is out to get them, or that we're telling lies, or that a nurse isn't gonna give you the right information because I'm being paid by a big pharma or a doctor's not gonna get, you know?
And it's, again, it's coming from a place of fear and wanting to protect people. So we've gotta try and be kind when we are dealing with people like that. It's a little bit difficult to figure out how to approach it really.
Jon Duffy: Alright, Jacqui, thank you very much for your thoughts. We've got a couple of other calls on the line that we need to move on to now, but you've summarised some of the key concerns for us there really well. So thank you for that.
Jacqui Bennetts: Okay. Thank you for your time.
Jon Duffy: Cool.
Jacqui Bennetts: Keep up with good work. Bye.
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Jon Duffy: And next on the line we've got Kim, she works for a company called Lifestream which is a manufacturer of the products we're talking about today.
Belinda Castles: Hi, Kim.
Kim Wessels: Hi. Thank you.
Jon Duffy: Kim. It might be a great place to start for you to tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do and, and why you've got an interest in this topic.
Kim Wessels: Okay. So I am a naturopath, a medical herbalist, and I am very interested in the bill because it does affect me and how I operate as a practitioner. Um, and also I work for lifestream and so obviously it has an impact on this company as well.
Jon Duffy: Right.
Kim, just so that listeners have some context, what is Lifestream?
Kim Wessels: Lifestream, is a supplement company that manufactures and exports natural health supplements.
Ingredients like aloe vera tonic, spirulina, barley grass, chlorella, a number of other products in the range.
Jon Duffy: Okay. What are your headline thoughts of the bill? Have they got it right? Have they missed the point? How's it gonna land?
Kim Wessels: I think that the intention is, Is there. Uh, but I do think that there is a little bit of work that needs to take place in terms of some of the specifics. I know that what we have so far is a framework for a bill, but there is a lot of areas that are a little bit, uh... Where things have been grouped together, like natural health products have been grouped in with medical products and um, other devices, medical devices, sorry.
So there's just some clarity that needs to take place and some more specific clauses around natural health products. I think that helps to support the industry so that the consumer can get products that they want, and businesses can sustain themselves.
Jon Duffy: Okay. What's the key concern from your perspective?
Kim Wessels: Um, big picture the key concern is that the regulations that we currently have in place are quite restrictive. And I personally - and I think I speak for lifestream as well - we would want to see better rules and regulations that are not ambiguous, that don't have unreasonable restrictions.
So for example, if we want to label a product, if any company wants to label a product, regardless of whether there is evidence to, to verify or validate the efficacy or the effectiveness of a particular ingredient on the body, we are very restricted as to what we can say. In fact we virtually can't say very much at all about that. It was very...
Jon Duffy: You're saying that's that's the current state?
Kim Wessels: Yes, it is. That's the current bill. Yeah. And so your message is very diluted, which doesn't, doesn't help the consumer understand the product or how we can sell it.
Belinda Castles: So by having a list of approved claims then, that have obviously gone through the system as part of the new regulations that will mean products will be able to make those claims clearer.
So that would be a positive, don't you think?
Kim Wessels: It would, but I'm not aware of a list.
Belinda Castles: The list hasn't been developed yet cuz I did check that as well.
Kim Wessels: Yeah.
Belinda Castles: So I think that's gonna be quite a long process in developing that list. Similar to what we have for the food standards code, there's a number of claims that are pre-approved.
Kim Wessels: Yes, yes. So it will be a lengthy, complicated process to do that. And then there might even be restrictions around that. It's just seems like a little bit of a complicated process when there often can be years of evidence to validate, a particular ingredient.
Jon Duffy: So you think if I'm understanding you correctly, the, the restrictions here on labeling label claims
Kim Wessels: mm-hmm.
Jon Duffy: are kind of overkill in your view.
Kim Wessels: Uh, yeah. Well, I don't think they're taking into consideration actual evidence or data that validates a therapeutic effect.
Jon Duffy: Okay.
Kim Wessels: And that needs to happen. And, um, in my opinion on a wider scale.
Belinda Castles: Yeah. And I mean, I agree. I'm sort of waiting anxiously for the next round. I agree. It's gonna be a long process.
Kim Wessels: Yeah.
Belinda Castles: And there's a lot of work to be done with those pre-approved claims and um, list of ingredients and all those things. So it won't be a short process.
Kim Wessels: No, but you know, I'm optimistic that it's going to happen, but also a little bit cautious at the outcome.
So we'll see. As you say, it'll take time.
Jon Duffy: Great. Alright, Kim, that's probably um, a really good place for us to say goodbye. Thank you so much for participating in this. It's really great to get your perspective.
And we need to move on to our next caller now, but, um, thank you very much. Have a great evening.
Kim Wessels: You're welcome. Thank you guys. See you.
Jon Duffy: Cheers.
Kim Wessels: You too. Bye.
Jon Duffy: Alright, next on the line from Consumer World is Caroline. Can you hear us, Caroline?
Caroline Malthus: Yes. I'm on the phone at the moment. Yes. Sorry.
Jon Duffy: Oh, that's all right.
Caroline Malthus: I'll be off in a minute. Okay. Okay. Okay. Sorry. That's another call. Okay, bye.
Jon Duffy: Um, hey, we're talking about the therapeutic products bill and we'd love to hear your views on the bill and the regime and I guess the industry in New Zealand as well.
Caroline Malthus: My sense is that there's sort of free for all at the moment and consumers are being sold all sorts of things, including things that probably are not what they claim on the box. And in relation to health, people are quite vulnerable. I mean, I'm quite vulnerable, you know, I've bought some of these products.
You know, I see something to ease a sore back or something like that, and I'm quite susceptible because I have back pain and something that's going to relieve that is very appealing. And we're not talking about cheap stuff here. Usually there's, well, I mean, there's all sorts of levels of prices, but most of them are quite expensive, sometimes much more expensive than a doctor's visit and taking the pills the doctor gives you .
Jon Duffy: Mm-hmm.
Caroline Malthus: Um, and often people are trying it because that didn't work, or that had other undesirable side effects. So I feel like, you know, it is an area where people are vulnerable and also I think people have a right to expect that the product will include information that tells them, you know, it works. In these cases it doesn't work so much, or it's got these side effects itself, which is another important aspect of it. And interactions should also be declared. Well, I don't remember seeing that on many products that I've used. I've certainly bought quite a few supplements and other types of products. Pain relief type ones, I guess mainly.
I think it's important. It's probably a kind of conservative view, but it comes from thinking about how vulnerable people are in this area.
Jon Duffy: Alright, Caroline, look, that's brilliant. We really do appreciate you, um, connecting with us and being willing to participate in Consume This.
Caroline Malthus: Sure. Fine.
Jon Duffy: Hey, we've got another caller on the line and this caller is Kate.
Kate Shanks: Hi guys.
Belinda Castles: Hi Kate
Jon Duffy: Hey, so thanks for joining us. Um, as you know, we're discussing natural products and therapeutic products and the therapeutic products Bill, that's
Kate Shanks: mm-hmm
Jon Duffy: winging its way through Parliament, and we're, we're really keen to hear your views on it.
Kate Shanks: Yeah. Well, I'm pretty, uh, pretty outraged to be honest.
Um, and yeah, I really hope that we've got enough Submissions against it. I think it's really oversized and they're trying to cram a little bit too much into one bill that's very vague, and still yet to really clearly state what products or ingredients are gonna be restricted and regulated.
Jon Duffy: Yeah. We've actually heard that.
Belinda Castles: What are your main issues about, um, I suppose what, what are the topics you're most outraged about? I mean, obviously the lack, lack of detail.
Kate Shanks: Yes. No, but I mean obviously. So I run a small business selling wellness products made with natural ingredients and skincare, and it sounds as though for a small business like mine, I probably will be shut down and wouldn't be able to sort of afford the levies and things that they are proposing. And that a lot of similar businesses to myself will be shut down and therefore, you know, leaving only larger companies who can sort of suck up those sort of fees and things. And then at the end of the day, have the monopoly over their products and the market.
And of course then they'll pass on those fees to the consumer and then the consumer's gonna be the one paying the high price tag.
Jon Duffy: So, so what's your understanding of kind of level of fees that a business your size would be subjected to by the bill?
Kate Shanks: So, um, I have read through the bill and it's really hard to find clear outlining monetary value on how things are going to actually go ahead and be charged. But last week I attended a meeting in Gisborne with say about 40 other people who are concerned at the bill as well. And we were having a conversation and I think the leader of the meeting had some more information for us. And so what I'm aware of is that there will be fees. For example, every batch will be tested and that costs to send away to a lab. That might be okay if you're making in thousands, but I make in batches of 10. There's benefit in, I believe, your energy that goes into making those products as well.
I know they can sound a little bit airy-fairy to some people, but we're a big believer of the person who is making your products. Um, so I make in small batches, so that's one cost. The cost that was sort of been thrown around was about $80 per batch.
Then there'll be a yearly, um, registering your business to be, you know operable. Probably similar to the food safe kind of certificate, which that could be fine. But, um, you know, when you're adding all the rest of these costs up, um, not to mention fines. If you are misswording something according to the bill, or if you don't do any of these things and you get found out and that the fines are hefty, and those are on the bill.
Jon Duffy: Mm-hmm.
Kate Shanks: A hundred thousand dollars. There's no real discrepancy to the size of your business and how you will be fined. It's scary. Yeah.
Belinda Castles: Yeah. I'm a little, I mean, I haven't seen those figures that, that you've suggested. It may be that information you've got might not be quite as, um, expensive as you may think, because I think there's still a lot of work to be done in that.
Kate Shanks: Yeah
Belinda Castles: in that area.
Kate Shanks: Yes. Agreed. And I think that that's just another reason why people really wanna get the bill at least revised. These things are important to us. We need to know what's what. You know, you can't just put out something that's so, so broad. And of course people are gonna start jumping to conclusions if there's nothing so specific for us to go by.
And I think those outlines would be really useful.
Um, the other thing, just we wonder why all of a sudden is this bill needed in the way in its current form. Because there's not been a spike of deaths because of natural products. So it makes me wonder why is this all of a sudden so needed?
Jon Duffy: Do you have any ideas on what the motivation might be?
Kate Shanks: My ideas are that, our government has sold our soul to Pharmac and they... Obviously, scientists have been finding out lots of amazing things about properties and plants and natural things that definitely have, um, amazing benefits on health.
For example, kawakawa. And the natural health contenders are doing well, maybe. Um, and I think that they don't like that and they want to have control over that or synthesise the ingredients that they can find in kawakawa.
Jon Duffy: What would, what would their motivation for doing that be? Like, why do you think they would do that?
Kate Shanks: Money. Yeah.
Jon Duffy: For, for the government or for, for Pharmac which is part of the government I suppose.
Kate Shanks: I'd say Pharmac yeah. Yeah. Ultimately.
Jon Duffy: Right. And Pharmac ultimately wants to earn money to what? To, to spend on kind of conventional medicines, pharmaceuticals, that sort of stuff. Is that, is that how that works?
Kate Shanks: Well, yeah, I would, I don't, I wouldn't know. I think that they are intimidated by the natural health practitioners and the things that we make.
Maybe that has, you know, got sort of, them thinking that they would like to make the money, you know, in that sense. But, um, I think initially, like looking at it for New Zealand, obviously if this bill is to come in, there's gonna be an entire industry that's needed to, well police it and those people who are involved, well, how are they gonna get paid?
They're gonna need to find the money from people like us. And so that's sort of, I think initially how it's gonna roll out with where the money goes.
Jon Duffy: Yeah. Okay. So if you had to summarize, do you see, like you, you've mentioned a number of potential negative impacts of the bill, do you see any, any positives?
Kate Shanks: Yes, I see a positive, like for example, there's always gonna be cowboys in the industry, like in any industry. So yes, there probably are people out there making crappy products that aren't doing what they say they do. Or maybe have, you know, very little of the ingredient that they're claiming to have.
The other thing is wording things.
Obviously, you should never say, you know, lavender's going to cure cancer. Like, you should never say big claims. And I know there are definitely other companies who might be claiming things that they shouldn't. So, you know, I do see that as a benefit, if that's part of what the bill's proposing. But yeah, I that's basically all I can find.
Jon Duffy: Okay.
Kate Shanks: Positive.
Jon Duffy: Awesome. Look, um, thank you so much for sharing your perspective tonight. It's really interesting points that you've raised. We've got another caller that we need to talk to.
Kate Shanks: mm-hmm
Jon Duffy: to go to, but, um, look, we really appreciate you being part of Consume This.
Kate Shanks: Cool. Thank you for having me.
Jon Duffy: Awesome. Thank you very much. See you later.
Kate Shanks: See ya.
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Jon Duffy: Can you hear us Quentin?
Quentin Jamieson: Yeah. Hi. Yep. I can.
Jon Duffy: Um, look a great place to start is maybe you can tell us a bit about who you are, what you do, and why you're interested in this topic of therapeutic products.
Quentin Jamieson: Um, so my wife and I run a, well, I guess you could call it a micro business really.
We manufacture herbal products. We live in Gisborne and we run on a really small scale. Look it's just us two and we've got like a, um, we've got our own little registered kitchen at home. And we make things like herbal teas and sunscreen and salves like, you know, and that sort of thing. We make insect repellent.
So some of the products that we make at the moment we already have had to get registered with our local council in order to be able to make them, because they're food, like the tea. Some of the products at the moment, we are just making them and we are really happy with the quality of them and the people that buy stuff off us are really happy with the quality of them.
Belinda Castles: Okay, so are you making sort of more lotions or sort of like supplements that people put in their mouth, I suppose, consume that way?
Quentin Jamieson: No, we we don't make any vitamin supplements or mineral supplements no. So some of the products are topical. Yeah. Like, like, like I'm talking about a salve or balm that you've made.
You've infused a herb in a carrier oil, and then you add in some beeswax and hey presto you've got a balm that's suitable for putting on skin that's irritated, eczema, sore muscles, that kind of thing. The sunscreen too is a topical product. We make some herbal tinctures where you've made a product and you've extracted it using alcohol or glycerine to make a really concentrated form of the herb, much more concentrated than say in a herbal tea.
And then yeah we make herbal teas, which are obviously ingestible, so that's why we already have the registered kitchen because they're, well, they're not a food, but that they're a consumable.
Jon Duffy: And what's the process you had to go through to register your kitchen? Was that a huge palava and an expensive exercise?
Cuz we understand through this bill, you know, there'll be businesses, small businesses, large businesses, whatever, that have to spend money to register both themselves and the ingredients that they're using. So having been through a similar process and an aligned regime, how difficult and costly was that for you?
Quentin Jamieson: Um, we spent about two and a half, maybe three K on the council fees and some things that we had to do in order to comply, like getting our water tested because we're on rural water. The biggest piece of the cost was actually the contractor that came and verified our kitchen. Because in Gisborne the council didn't feel that they had the expertise to come and inspect our business, because Although they inspect really high risk businesses like takeaways and sushi bars and places where you are bound to get food poisoning, they didn't really, uh, feel that they were capable of inspecting people who were mixing up dried herbs and putting them in a jar.
So we had to spend another two K on getting a contractor up from Napier. So yeah, that was reasonably like for the level that we're operating on. You know, we are only selling $200, $300 worth of product a week on a good week. It really is a micro business. It's not a full living for us, so it's gonna take us a long time and a lot of jars of tea to get that cost back.
Jon Duffy: Mm-hmm yes.
Quentin Jamieson: The certification we have through the council last for two years, and it allows us to make any kind of herbal tea that we want to blend, and any kind of salt plus spice plus herb seasoning mix that we want to blend. We don't have to register the individual products. The other expense that has been quite a big expense for us is that in order to go through the whole registration process we did have to have a commercial kitchen.
So we spent 38K on buying like a little mobile kitchen. You can't really have your own home kitchen registered as a commercial kitchen. You really have to have a separate space.
Jon Duffy: Mm-hmm. What's your view on that? Was that excessive in your mind, or do you see the rationale behind that?
Quentin Jamieson: I definitely can see the rationale behind having food businesses operating in a hygienic way and in a responsible way.
Jon Duffy: So bringing it back to therapeutic products, what's your understanding of what you'll have to do under the bill? You know, along similar lines to what you've done with food?
Quentin Jamieson: Look mate that's absolutely anybody's guess, because the way this bill is written all of those rules are yet to be drafted.
So at the moment we are writing submissions and then MPs will be voting upon the second reading of the bill once it goes through the select committee process. At the moment, really we're guessing, we're speculating. I've had contact with some other medical herbalists through social media who are saying that they think it'll probably cost about a hundred dollars per year per product, but they are guessing.
They're absolutely guessing.
We don't know. If we did have to pay a hundred dollars per year per product we'd be paying about... uh, we make about 20 different products when we add them all. So that would be another $2,000 a year. It might be that the regulator - who hasn't been appointed yet, and won't be appointed until after the bill passes - they might say, yep, well a kawakawa balm has to contain at least 10% kawakawa solids, and you've gotta prove that it does by getting it lab tested.
Any kind of lab testing is always at least $80 to a hundred bucks for whatever you're doing. That's minimum. Labs don't do anything for less than that. Why would they? It's not worth it. If there was a testing system as well, that would really hammer us, because we make our stuff in really small batches. If we were having to get each batch tested the margin would just go.
Jon Duffy: Yeah, that's an interesting question for me.
So what if the bill passes in its current form, what will it do to your business?
Quentin Jamieson: Well, again, that's anybody's guess, because it might be that the regulator just says, oh look. Well, it's got, uh, a long history of use. It's a pretty safe herb. We'll grandparent it into the system and just say, you can use it without restriction.
Or they might say, actually no, that's a restricted plant and you will have to register and pay a fee per product to use it. It's really anybody's guess. But I think, I think I can see that with a business that's operating on our scale. You know, we we're probably. $10-15k a year max from it.
Jon Duffy: Okay.
Quentin Jamieson: If we had another five or seven of compliance costs, we would just, we'd flag it. It would not be worth it.
Jon Duffy: Mm-hmm.
Quentin Jamieson: A lot of our clients here in Gisborne are on really low incomes.
Jon Duffy: Mm-hmm.
Quentin Jamieson: We've kept our prices really low. People are often telling us we should put them up. We don't wanna do that because I've got a really strong conviction natural health products should not just be for wealthy people.
They should be for all people. And I think it would be a pity if they lost that choice because we either went out of business or increased our prices to pay for the compliance costs.
Jon Duffy: Interesting. Look, Quentin, thank you for your perspective that that has been really, uh, really interesting to listen to and really enlightening.
Quentin Jamieson: Thanks very much for having me
Jon Duffy: Ka kite.
Quentin Jamieson: Cool. Ka kite.
Jon Duffy: Okay, we're going to Liz.
Liz McNamara: Can you hear me okay?
Jon Duffy: Yeah, we can. Thank you.
Liz McNamara: That's okay. I'm sorry to say I am in the car.
Jon Duffy: That's okay. We can...
Liz McNamara: That was the best I could do, so I can't have my video going.
Jon Duffy: That's all good. So thanks for joining us. It's probably a good place to start, but why don't you tell us who, who you are, what you do, and, and why you're interested in this topic of natural products.
Liz McNamara: Sure. My name's Liz McNamara. I'm a naturopath and a herbalist and a cosmetics formulator. I'm the chair of the Naturopaths Medical Herbalist of New Zealand. I've worked in the industry for about 20 years. Uh, so the, the current proposed bill is very relevant to my day-to-day life and the people that I advocate for.
So I've been privileged enough to be able to meet with the advisors who have been writing the bill and give direct feedback and hear from them about their intentions for the bill and things like that.
Jon Duffy: Yeah. What's, how's your feeling on where the bills got to at this stage?
Liz McNamara: My personal view is that I conditionally approve of the bill and, and support the bill. But there's a lot of areas that need some attention and consideration and further education. And, and not just from the natural health side of things, but also from medicines. From what I understand, from conversations with people in those areas it's an absolutely enormous bill.
There is so much yet to be written, and I think that is partly why there's just so much concern and worry day-to-day. The regulations haven't been written and won't be until there's a regulator put in place. So yeah, there are a lot of concerns from people and I understand where those concerns are coming from. But at the same time my position is dietary supplements definitely need regulatory reform.
We have very outdated legislation. It doesn't support the industry at all. There's not really a good communication stream with the current regulator, export is not supported. So we have so many issues currently I would hope that anything's an improvement on what we have.
But like I said, there's just so many unknowns. But there's really positive things that could come out of the bill, like increased amounts of certain nutrients.
So at the moment, with some nutrients like b12, you're only allowed to access 50 micrograms of that, which can be a very low dose for some people. So hopefully those allowable amounts will come into a better alignment with higher doses that are common in other countries.
Um, so there's, there are a lot of positives. Um, if these things are available for general sale in the supermarket and, you know, in the mall it should be easier to figure out what might be helpful for you, or what might not be helpful.
Jon Duffy: Awesome. Hey, look, thank you so much for participating in this, Liz. We'll let you get on with your evening, but have a great night.
Liz McNamara: Okay you too. Thanks a lot. Bye.
Jon Duffy: So after all that Consumer NZ needed to head along to the select committee and make a submission on the Therapeutic Products Bill. The crux of what we ended up saying was that we do support the regulation of natural products and that we think we've fallen behind our international counterparts in our lack of regulation in this area.
We also noted we didn't want to see any increase in prices or compliance costs, reducing competition in the sector. And remember, the natural products part of this bill was only one of the parts that we were submitting on, there were plenty of others, including the regulation of sunscreen and medical devices that we submitted on as well.
Uh, if you want to see the submission, you can catch it on Parliament's Facebook page or also see our full submission on our website.
Jon Duffy: You've been listening to Consume This with me, Jon Duffy, and this week also guest starring Consumer NZ health and nutrition writer Belinda Castles. Thank you to all of you who called in.
Links to the bill, our submission and the full results from the survey we referenced in this podcast are included in the show notes.
This episode was produced by Tom Riste-Smith and made possible with support from the Ministry of Health.