I hope readers of the blog will never utter the sentence, “It’s safe: it’s natural!”
For one thing, snake venom is natural, but I have it on good authority that it’s not safe for consumption.
For another, we know that so-called “natural products” do not undergo the more rigorous quality assurance/quality control process actual drugs are forced to adopt, leading to a not-infrequent contamination with unlisted substances and, sometimes, a downright substitution of what should be the “active” ingredient.
Health Canada has issued a recall today for a natural health product called “Alive Vitamins – Royal Jelly 1200 mg”. What could possibly be wrong with these vitamins, one may ask? Well, as it turns out, two lots have been voluntarily recalled because of contamination with an antibiotic called chloramphenicol. Isn’t it great that people popping vitamins are killing pathogenic bacteria at the same time? Actually, some people are allergic to chloramphenicol and others (the lucky few) can develop a fatal case of aplastic anemia.
What is a prescription drug doing in vitamins? This is what happens when manufacturing processes are not adequately supervised because the product is deemed to be “natural”.
I hope to write a more detailed article on the differences in Health Canada regulations between drugs and so-called “natural health products” (NHP). In the meantime, feast your eyes on this list of recent alerts and recalls of NHPs in Canada. Chloramphenicol contamination keeps coming back, as do advisories for products that are not authorized for sale in Canada and that may cause illnesses.
Never again should we say, “It’s safe: it’s natural!”
If you’re curious about how chloramphenicol comes to contaminate natural health products, I would invite you to read the post “Why honey gets contaminated by antibiotics” by Shelley Stuart at Bees & Biology.