Regulations for Selling Herbal Tea in Canada
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Trisha
Posted on: August 11, 2006

Re: Epimedium or Horny Goat Herb, Tribulus terrestis or Puncture Vine, Sarsaparilla, Gotu-Kola, Fo-Ti, Yohimbe and Ginseng.

I navigated your Q&A site and have a quick question if the above noted herbs are meeting Canadian Inspection Food Authority natural health products guidelines?

I want to develop a tea made out of herbs.

Health Canada is responsible for regulating and setting standards for foods and natural health products in Canada. Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate regulates the sale of natural health products such as medicinal teas. Health Canada’s Food Directorate regulates the sale of foods. In the case of NHPs, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is only involved when natural health products are imported into Canada, as it is responsible for inspecting all food and natural health product shipments coming into Canada. The CFIA takes its direction on what natural health products can and cannot be imported from the NHPD. In the case of foods, the CFIA has a much greater role enforcing safety and nutritional quality standards set by Health Canada.

If your tea is intended for sale in Canada, the first thing that has to be decided is whether or not your product falls under the Natural Health Products Regulations. If you are planning to make health claims for the product then automatically it becomes an NHP under the regulations. Even if you don’t plan to make health claims, it will likely still be considered an NHP, depending on a number of factors. It is necessary to review the regulations to be sure of what the status of your tea will be. If your tea is an NHP then you will have to get a site license and a product license from the NHPD. This is not a trivial exercise, and you will need to know whether sales will be large enough to justify the time and expense of getting the licenses.

If your tea is classed as a food then you do not need the NHPD licenses, but Health Canada’s food regulations will apply. Meeting these is much less onerous compared to meeting the NHPD regulations. However, given the herbs that you are planning to include, your tea will likely be classed as an NHP even if you do not make any health claims. One of the herbs, yohimbe, will not be permitted be used at all.

Here are some useful links:

Natural Health Products Directorate: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/branch-dirgen/hpfb-dgpsa/nhpd-dpsn/index_e.html

Food Directorate: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/food-aliment/e_index.html

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