What Regulations Apply to Marketing Herbs in Canada?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Judi Corbett
Posted on: October 7, 2000

I have been to your store, have been all over your site since I found it, have been growing your plants for a few years now, but I need some help.

I want to take my little hobby to a higher level, but most of the information that I am able to find is American. I want to start to market my herbs (which of course will mean that I will have to buy lots of new stuff from you), but I don’t know what rules and regulations I need to follow. Or where to find them!

Do I need to do anything to market fresh or dried herbs? Do I need inspections, licenses, etc., to market home made teas? When do I cross the line from just dried herbs to processed ones. Removing the leaves? Do I need to to follow any special regulations to market fresh ginseng?

The regulatory situation in Canada is very much in flux right now. A new regulatory authority called the Office of Natural Health Products has been formed to regulate the sale of herbs and other natural health products in Canada. As of Fall 2000, we have very few details of how the new rules will work, what herbs can be sold, in what form, and how much it will cost to get licensed. We have been told in meetings with the Office that the intent is to make the rules as simple and straightforward as possible while still ensuring the safety of Canadians, but until we see exactly what the rules are going to be it is difficult to form an opinion.

None of your questions have clear answers at this point. For example, the definitions of a raw herb product and a finished product are under active discussion now at the ONHP.

Much of the regulatory philosophy centres on whether or not medicinal claims and instructions for use are supplied with the herbal products. Under current rules, the moment you say that a product does something medicinally, it falls automatically under the "drugs" category, and is regulated as such. There is no doubt that that concept will continue under the new ONHP. Where things are unclear right now are on products which do not have a medicinal claim on them, for example, a bag of bulk dried echinacea roots. The ONHP has been talking about regulating products whether or not they have claims associated with them, but just how that would work is unclear.

There is a workbook that describes that regulatory issues and proposals. You can go to the ONHP website at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/onhp/ for more information.

I am so new to this and have no idea what to consider, or where to look. I have picked up lots of info on marketing and growing, etc... but it is all American. Do you have any suggestions for web sites, books, etc.?

On the production and marketing sides there is much more information now. Yes, much of it is American, but these topics don’t really differ a great deal in the Canadian or American settings. On the regulatory side, whcih of course affects production and marketing, there is, unfortunately, very little available to go by except what is available on the ONHP website.

Wish I could attend your course this month, but I have to be in Ohio for a week -- just happens to be the same time you have your course. Would love any supports, suggestions, reading ideas, etc. I am here in Ontario, so much of what I keep reading just does not apply.

The transcripts for previous Richters Commercial Herb Growing Conferences are highly recommended. Sometime this month (Oct. 2000) the 1999 transcripts will come off the press. Go to the Onlien Catalogue at the Richters website to order. Also, check the new "Herb Farming Series" available from Richters.

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