The owner of a Finlandia Natural Pharmacy & Health Centre is upset at Health Canada for ordering him to destroy $16,000 worth of a soy-based natural remedy. In an interview with the Georgia Straight in a West Broadway coffee shop, Harlan Lahti said that his store has been selling nattokinase, which thins the blood, for seven years without a single complaint of any bad side effects. And with no warning and no scientific evidence, the federal government demanded that he get rid of his inventory as part of a recall.
“It’s unfair to the public and it’s unfair to business people,” Lahti said. “This is taking another tool away from people’s right to use less hazardous products to maintain their health. That’s really our whole agenda here: to give people choices.”
On October 29, Health Canada posted a recall notice for two lots (CN 06358 and CN 06428) of 20-milligram capsules of BXD Nattokinase Q, which was distributed to two retail outlets. Health Canada stated on its website that this was “based on the totality of evidence available during the product licence assessment, that the ingredient, nattokinase, may result in injury to the health of a purchaser or consumer consumed at all doses”.
Health Canada did not provide anyone to speak to the Straight by deadline and did not produce any studies of nattokinase from any peer-reviewed medical journals suggesting that the product created any danger to the public.
According to the WebMD, a popular health website staffed by physicians, “Nattokinase is LIKELY SAFE when used in amounts commonly found in foods. Nattokinase is a natural component of the soy food natto. It has been routinely consumed in Japanese cultures for hundreds of years.”
WebMD also states: “The safety of taking nattokinase in the larger medicinal amounts isn’t known. Taking two doses of a specific product containing nattokinase (Flite Tabs) seems to be safe. But it is not known if taking more than two doses is safe.”
Lahti claimed that people are at higher risk of side effects by taking too many over-the-counter pain relievers than they are from consuming nattokinase. “Is it poisoning somebody?” he asked rhetorically. “No, it’s not poisoning anybody.”
He said that naturopaths recommend nattokinase because it reduces the chance of blood clots, which lead to strokes and heart attacks. And he suggested that this remedy is creating competition for manufacturers of pharmaceutical-company blood thinners with more harmful side effects.
Lahti is a licensed pharmacist who previously worked in hospital and in geriatric-care settings, where he saw how some prescription medications could have dangerous consequences. “If people want to take natural remedies along with their drugs, we counsel them whether this is advisable or not advisable,” he said. “That’s one of our specialties—to keep people safe if they want to make the choices they want to make.”
Meanwhile, a natural-health entrepreneur who was hassled by Health Canada in the 1980s is speaking up in Lahti’s defence. Barrie Carlsen, president of Vitex Nutrition Ltd., told the Straight by phone that he had many legal battles with the federal regulators when he owned Quest Vitamins.
“They caused severe damage to our company because one-quarter of our products were unilaterally seized without scientific validation for seizing them,” Carlsen said. “And all of those products that were seized are now quite legal, but they never made any compensation to us for the lost business.”
He recalled when fish oils and amino acids were ordered off his shelves because they were suddenly classified as medications. “I’m sure there was pressure from the pharmaceutical industry because the active amino acids were directly competing with popular drugs,” Carlsen stated.
He eventually won a court fight and likens Lahti’s troubles to the type of harassment he endured. “They can still declare anything a new drug,” Carlsen said. “The thing with nattokinase is a throwback to the 1980s when they were totally against anything that was natural and had some benefit.”