To explore how the information provided on labels as mandated by the new Canadian natural health product (NHP) regulations impacts consumers' perceptions of risks associated with using NHPs.
Six focus groups were conducted in three locations across Ontario. Consumers were asked to react to two labels for a fictitious product called Saturnflower that represented the "old" standards (label 1) and the new standards (label 2). Groups were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative content analysis was used to identify key themes.
The 38 participants criticized label 1 for lacking information about the uses of the product and discussed their frustration at trying to obtain good quality information about NHPs. The lack of risk information on label 1 reinforced their perceptions of NHPs as natural, mild and safe. The majority of participants found label 2 much more informative, but a few were unsettled by the extent of the risk information, questioning if it was necessary.
The label requirements of the new NHP regulations were generally viewed positively by the consumers who participated in this study.
The additional risk information may generate more NHP-related questions for health care practitioners especially with respect to possible interactions between NHPs and conventional medicines.