Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
April 03, 2001
New Guelph group aims to build growing natural health products industry
Improving the quality, quantity and global competitiveness of Canadian natural health products is the aim of a new “virtual” group being established at the University of Guelph.
The Natural Health Products Technology Cluster (NHPTC) will be made up of companies involved in the development of new products and markets. The NHPTC will capitalize on collaborative opportunities with public- and private-sector partners, investigate the efficacy of individual products and disseminate consumer information about them, and develop recommendations for standardized labelling for these products.
Natural health products include herbal remedies, vitamin and mineral supplements --including garlic, ginseng, echinacea, St. John’s wort -- and nutraceuticals like omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, which can be added to milk, cheese and eggs to provide a range of health benefits.
“With the increased consumption of natural health products, including botanicals and nutraceuticals, has come a need to increase the size and competitiveness of the natural health product industry in Ontario, and to provide consumers with more information to ensure they are confident in the quality, safety and efficacy of these products,” says Julie Conquer, director of the University of Guelph’s Human Nutraceutical Research Unit, which will oversee the cluster. “This initiative builds on the University of Guelph’s nationally recognized reputation for agri-food teaching and research. We have a critical mass of people in food production and testing, food science, nutritional science, applied nutrition and agricultural economics, as well as important agri-food private- and public-sector partners located in and around Guelph. This makes Guelph the logical base for this cluster.”
To date, the cluster has five charter members and is looking to recruit 30 more from several sectors in the next several months, including government agencies, researchers, growers of NHPs, trade associations, exporters and retailers. The cluster will be largely “virtual” in nature, with an interactive Web site and high-speed e-mail system, as well as regular on-site conferences and seminars.
Conquer, who along with Prof. Bill Bettger, Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences, is co-director of the cluster, says the provincial economy will be a key beneficiary of the group’s activities. “To meet demand, we need to be able to develop the industry’s infrastructure, market and science base in order to create a competitive advantage for our members,” says Conquer. “These are high-value products with a potentially enormous economic impact. Many natural health products are, in effect, weeds, so a producer could earn a lot of revenue on existing land from plants that are relatively easy to grow.”
Initial feasibility funding for the cluster was provided by the Agri- Food Adaptation Council. The cluster start-up follows the establishment in 1999 of the Office of Natural Health Products by Health Canada.
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