Members of the Australian and New Zealand dietary supplements industry are wringing their hands at the prospect of a trans-Tasman regulatory agency. In Australia, health supplements are regulated as medicines, but in New Zealand they are controlled under looser food legislation. New Zealand health officials have proposed a trans-Tasman agency to control therapeutic products.
The split emerged after New Zealand retailers held a one-day protest in Wellington which saw them drape black curtains over supplements they believe would be unavailable under a trans-Tasman arrangement. The protest was organised by Citizens for Health Choice, which, along with the National Nutritional Foods Association, argue that Australia's rules would regulate some products off New Zealand shelves and put half the country's dietary supplement suppliers out of business.
But others support a trans-Tasman agency, claiming joint control would result in more equal trade opportunities, greater consistency in label information and safer products for consumers. Major suppliers such as Blackmores and Nutra-Life dispute claims it would put suppliers out of business.
New Zealand Health Minister Annette King is calling for a sensible debate over the issue. "Some individuals and organisations are making wild claims about the proposed Trans-Tasman Therapeutic Goods Agency," she said, adding that the government has not decided whether to proceed with a joint agency. King said regardless of whether a joint agency is established, regulatory change is required to ensure the validity of health claims.
She said many supplements manufacturers make unsubstantiated claims, and suppliers that produce quality products would not have a problem with stricter requirements.