Tuesday, April 25, 2017

If BC health officials were on the ball about Pure North-why weren't the Alberta Health folks also vigilant?


Vancouver food bank potentially risked clients' health through lax alternative-health program

Public health officials detailed potential health risk created by Alberta-based foundation

By Charles Rusnell, Jennie Russell, CBC News Posted: Apr 03, 2017 5:30 AM MT Last Updated: Apr 03, 2017 5:30 AM MT
B.C. health officials effectively forced the Vancouver food bank to stop Pure North, a private alternative health foundation, from distributing high-dose supplements to clients.
B.C. health officials effectively forced the Vancouver food bank to stop Pure North, a private alternative health foundation, from distributing high-dose supplements to clients. (CBC)
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Charles Rusnell, Jennie Russell
Investigative reporters
Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell are reporters with CBC Investigates, the award-winning investigative unit of CBC Edmonton. Their journalism in the public interest is widely credited with forcing accountability, transparency and democratic change in Alberta. Send tips in confidence to cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca. @charlesrusnell @jennierussell_

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British Columbia public health officials effectively forced the Vancouver food bank to shut down a privately funded alternative-health program offered by a wealthy Alberta oilman's non-profit foundation because it posed a potential health risk to thousands of unwitting Lower Mainland food bank clients.
Internal B.C. government documents show that from February 2014 until late January 2015, the Pure North S'Energy Foundation, funded by Calgary-based businessman Allan Markin, distributed packets of high-dose supplements to thousands of food bank clients with the permission of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.
Aart Schuurman Hess
Vancouver food bank CEO Aart Schuurman Hess said he was never told in writing about any potential health risks related to the Pure North program. (CBC)
The decisive actions of the B.C. civil servants contrast sharply with Alberta, where Pure North for years has been allowed to operate similar high-dose programs, focusing mostly on "vulnerable populations" at such places as homeless shelters.
A CBC News investigation found the Alberta government gave Pure North a $10-million grant in 2013 to offer its program to more than 7,000 seniors, despite the fact officials believed the promised health outcomes were not adequately supported by scientific evidence and the program could cause adverse health effects.

3,400 food-bank clients

Internal B.C government documents obtained by CBC News through freedom of information show public health officials determined that more than 3,400 food-bank clients may have received unlabelled, improperly packaged supplements, including vitamin D at a dose higher than the safe tolerable upper intake level recommended by Health Canada — without properly informed consent, counselling or medical supervision.
Dr. Reka Gustafson
Dr. Reka Gustafson, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, told Pure North she had the authority to shut down the supplement distribution program at the food bank. (CBC )
"This program is a population health intervention that is provided without individual assessments, counselling and monitoring as would be offered in a primary health care setting," states a Jan. 19, 2015 report prepared by public health dietitians for Dr. Reka Gustafson, a medical health officer for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.
Two days later, Aart Schuurman Hess, the food bank's chief executive officer and a personal acquaintance of Markin's, suspended the supplement distribution program until a laundry list of health safety concerns could be resolved. But in March 2015, the program was cancelled.
"One of the things that was of real concern to me is this idea that you can bypass the checks and balances that keep people safe," Gustafson told CBC News in an interview. "And you can't.
Stephen Carter
Pure North spokesperson Stephen Carter acknowledges the foundation made mistakes with its food-bank supplement program. (Sam Martin/CBC)
"The same checks and balances that apply to the person who shops at Safeway should apply to the food bank," she said. "And certainly I would think that most people would expect it to."
Stephen Carter, Pure North's vice-president of communications, said he "strongly rejected" the health officials' contention that the foundation had created a health risk. But he acknowledged Pure North had, in some cases, made mistakes.
"We should have done a better job of making sure that we had followed the rules, and we are doing a better job of making sure that we're following the rules," Carter said. "But in terms of the health of these individuals, we are doing the best work that we possibly can to ensure that these people remain healthy and are healthy for a long time."
Schuurman Hess told CBC News he had never been informed, in writing, by health officials about the program's potential health risks they had identified and, as far as he knows, none of the food bank's clients who participated in the voluntary program suffered any adverse effects.
He said he personally invited Pure North to offer its supplement program at the food banks because he believed it was working well in Alberta and even had been financially supported by that province's government.

Alternative health program challenged

Pure North is a privately run, non-profit foundation that offers alternative, preventive health programs, with a primary focus on preventing chronic disease through high doses of vitamins and supplements, including vitamin D. Pure North claims its program, if broadly implemented, would save governments hundreds of millions of dollars each year in health care spending.
Pure North
B.C. public health officials found several health risks associated with Pure North’s distribution of high-dose supplements at Vancouver food banks. (CBC)
The foundation focuses on vulnerable populations such as the homeless, addicted and elderly. It claims that since 2007 more than 50,000 people have participated in its program in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.
Obtained through freedom of information, the internal documents detail a concerted effort by B.C. public health officials — spearheaded by a group of dietitians and medical health officers — to methodically identify potential health risks to the food-bank clients and to formulate an "action plan" to address them.
The documents also reveal health officials weren't afraid to confront Markin, the former chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, the giant Alberta oil and gas company. In 2015, Canadian Business magazine estimated the personal fortune of Markin, who is also part owner of the Calgary Flames, was more than $600 million.
In a Feb. 5, 2015 internal email, Gustafson describes a meeting with the "fantastically rich Alberta 'oil man' " and several Pure North staff.
"We spent a fair amount of time explaining the authority required to practise public health and make recommendations for a population. I am not entirely sure if this sunk in," Gustafson wrote, adding later that health officials had the power to shut down the program if it wasn't done voluntarily.
"We said that we didn't want to mandate them, but that we had the authority under the Public Health Act to do so. (That was kind of fun.)," Gustafson wrote, telling CBC later she was prepared to exercise that authority if the food bank didn't voluntarily stop Pure North from distributing the supplements.  

Health risks identified

The internal B.C. documents detail a troubling list of issues identified by the public health officials, including that:  
  • Pure North employed unlicensed Filipino nurses who distributed packets of high-dose supplements to clients who had not been properly informed about the potential risks.
  • Clients were not seen by a doctor and no medical history was taken. Although clients were required to complete a "toxicity symptom list" each month, the forms were not reviewed and no interpretation or counselling was provided.
  • Pure North distributed a tablet containing 4,000 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of vitamin C. Manufactured for Pure North, it did not have a natural product number from Health Canada, which is required to verify its strength, purity and safety. Health Canada subsequently issued a compliance letter to Pure North, but did not sanction the foundation.
  • The 4,000 IU vitamin D tablet was also distributed without a prescription, which is required in B.C. Pure North admitted it did not know it needed a prescription.
  • Clients received a total daily dose of 5,000 to 6,000 IU of vitamin D in their packets. Health Canada's safe tolerable upper intake level for Vitamin D is 4,000 IU.
  • Pure North provided clients with a 30-day supply of supplements in clear, sealed plastic bags. The bags contained individual packets that were unlabelled, in contravention of federal regulations. The supplements also were not in tamper-proof containers, a "safety issue for children who may think they are candy."
  • Pure North also gave clients a small bottle of iodine drops, which can be toxic in excessive doses.
Health officials were also concerned food-bank clients may not be able to understand the consent form they had to sign before receiving the packet of Pure North supplements, or understand the type of supplements they were given.

Issues rectified

Pure North spokesperson Stephen Carter said clients weren't seen by a doctor, and their medical histories weren't taken, because the foundation mistakenly believed it was distributing vitamin D within Health Canada's 4,000 IU safe upper level. Health Canada's recommended dietary allowances for vitamin D are 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for those aged one to 70, and 800 IU for adults over 70.
Vitamin D Recommended Dietary Allowance
A graphic shows the difference between the levels of vitamin D Health Canada recommends, and the levels Pure North recommended in a March 2015 advertising campaign. (CBC)
Carter said Pure North rectified every issue identified by health authorities. Every participant in a Pure North program in B.C. is now seen by a naturopathic doctor. The foundation stopped distributing the supplement that wasn't Health Canada approved. And documents show the foundation also corrected the labelling and packaging issues.
Before Pure North rectified the safety issues, public health officials, including Gustafson, conveyed several of their concerns in sometimes tense meetings with Pure North representatives and also with food-bank management.
A series of sometimes tense meetings followed between the public-health officials and Pure North, and one meeting where food bank management attended.
Following one such meeting in January 2015, Schuurman Hess announced the food bank was suspending the program.
On March 5, 2015, Schuurman Hess told public health officials the food bank and Pure North had mutually decided to end the controversial supplement distribution program.
"Both parties thought it better to go their own way," Schuurman Hess wrote in a follow-up email, in which he sought to distance the food banks he oversaw from a wellness program that for nearly a year he had allowed to operate, unfettered, within their walls.
"That way it doesn't affect our services and (standing) in the community. Although we only facilitated (Pure North), the community may consider this to be a food bank program, which it is not."
If you have any information about this story, or for another potential story, please contact us in confidence at cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca




Pure North alternative health program punted by CNRL months before getting $10M government grant

CNRL co-founder Allan Markin resigned after Alberta company rejected his private health program

By Charles Rusnell, Jennie Russell, CBC News Posted: Apr 19, 2017 6:00 AM MT Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017 11:20 AM MT
A review of the Pure North program done for CNRL found company chairman and Pure North founder Allan Markin was in a conflict of interest. Pure North says it helps patients feel better and live longer.
A review of the Pure North program done for CNRL found company chairman and Pure North founder Allan Markin was in a conflict of interest. Pure North says it helps patients feel better and live longer. (Pure North S'Energy Foundation/YouTube)
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Alberta Health gave Calgary oilman Allan Markin's private foundation a $10-million grant to expand an unproven alternative health program after Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., the company Markin co-founded, barred the foundation from directly providing the program to its employees.
The decision by CNRL to withdraw its support for Markin's Pure North S'Energy Foundation program also appears to have triggered his abrupt resignation as the company's chairman in April 2012.
Internal CNRL emails show the publicly traded oil and gas company's health and safety committee decided "it was not appropriate" for the Pure North program to be offered to the company's employees after an independent risk-management review "raised a number of issues" about it.
"Importantly, Mr. Markin is in a significant conflict of interest position because of his position as chairman of CNRL and his involvement as a central figure in Pure North," states a memo written by committee board chair Dr. Eldon Smith.
The memo was forwarded to all company employees by CNRL president Steve Laut in a March 22, 2012 email. Smith is the former dean of medicine at the University of Calgary.
Eleven days later, on April 2, 2012, at 2:01 p.m. -- one minute after the stock market closed in Toronto -- Markin notified CNRL staff worldwide in an email that he had resigned as CNRL chairman, and he referenced CNRL cutting off Pure North.
"The withdrawal of CNRL support for your participation in the Pure North program has not deterred my enthusiasm for the program," Markin wrote, adding that employees could still access the program outside of the company.
Laut, Smith, and Markin did not respond to interview requests from CBC News. In an interview last month, Pure North spokesperson Stephen Carter, speaking on Markin's behalf, said he did not know why CNRL withdrew support for the Pure North program. But he said the foundation still treats thousands of CNRL employees.

Aggressive lobbying campaign

A CBC News investigation has revealed that a few months after Markin resigned from CNRL, Pure North launched an aggressive lobbying campaign for funding from Alberta Health with an ultimate publicly stated goal of embedding Pure North's program in the provincial health system.
But although Pure North repeatedly cited the success of its CNRL program, it appears neither Markin nor Pure North disclosed the fact its program had been turfed by CNRL when the foundation sought, and received in December 2013, $10 million in funding from Alberta Health.
As CBC News has previously reported, Alberta Health granted the funding to Pure North against the advice of senior officials, who determined the Pure North program was not adequately supported by science, could not prove its health and economic claims, and may cause adverse effects in patients.
Dr. Eldon Smith
Former University of Calgary dean of medicine Dr. Eldon Smith chaired the health, safety and environment committee of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (Alberta Science and Technology Leadership Foundation)
Alberta Health also changed the purpose of the funding from a research study to simply an expansion of an existing Pure North seniors program. That change, made six days before the grant agreement was signed, eliminated the need for ethical oversight of the program, which was ultimately offered to more than 7,300 seniors.
The program collected medical information from participants. Some experts say Pure North was effectively operating a human-subject study without any ethical oversight. Pure North has said it has collected data, including from CNRL employees, to accurately monitor its patients. Provision of the data to university researchers is simply a secondary use, the foundation said.
In its promotional material, Pure North states Markin created the foundation's program. It began as an employee health and wellness program and was eventually offered to thousands of CNRL employees. Markin personally funded the program and used his own airplanes to fly Pure North medical practitioners, including doctors, to remote CNRL work sites.
In addition to high doses of supplements, especially vitamin D, the Pure North program also offered CNRL employees the opportunity to have mercury dental fillings removed. Pure North has said it believes the fillings leach harmful mercury into the body.

Program "not appropriate" at CNRL  

Dr. Eldon Smith, in his memo, told CNRL employees the outside review was prompted by questions about the program and "because of potential cost implications going forward."
CNRL hired consulting firm AON Canada to "evaluate all aspects of the program." Because of issues raised in the consultant's report, the matter was referred to the company's health, safety and environment committee.
The committee reviewed the AON report, Smith said, "as well as documentation from national and international bodies involved in recommending and regulating health therapies. Material from Pure North was also thoroughly reviewed."
Smith said a special meeting of the committee was held on Jan. 30, 2012, and "while there was unanimous recognition of the deep concern Mr. Markin has for the health and welfare of CNRL employees, the committee concluded it was not appropriate for this program to continue to be offered to the health of employees."
CNRL replaced the Pure North program with a conventional employee health program.
After Markin resigned as CNRL chairman, his spokesperson, former Calgary Health CEO Jack Davis, told The Calgary Herald Markin decided to resign without notice because "he wanted to clear the decks and give management and the board of CNRL a chance to make the adjustments they feel they want to make with this departure and not be encumbered in any way by him."
Internal University of Alberta and CNRL documents reveal Markin sought support for his Pure North wellness program a few days before he resigned from CNRL.

Deputy health minister gave endorsement

U of A documents show Pure North sought the support of then-president Indira Samarasekera. Markin has donated more than $20 million to the university.
In a March 30, 2012 email, Pure North executive director Wendy Paramchuk tells Samarasekera that, "Allan has asked if you would consider documenting your view about Pure North and with your permission, he could use to send to CNRL employees to explain Pure North's position. He will need this letter today if possible."
There is nothing in the documents that show Samarasekera provided an endorsement.
Carl Amrhein
Alberta health deputy minister Carl Amrhein provided an endorsement for Pure North when he was provost of the University of Alberta. (CBC)
But an internal CNRL document, sent to all employees, shows Markin received an endorsement from Alberta Health deputy minister Carl Amrhein, who was then provost at the U of A.
"The Canadian health system is not … sustainable in its current form …. Healthy living and prevention must become much more prominent, and Pure North S'Energy offers an outstanding program of education and support for both important issues," Amrhein's endorsement states.
In July 2014, Amrhein also wrote a letter of support for Pure North and Markin that lauded the research data — and financial support — Pure North had given his university's academics.
In October 2016, Amrhein, now deputy minister of health, signed a grant agreement with Pure North on behalf of his ministry. The grant is worth $4.2 million over several years and funds a nurse-practitioner-led, primary-care clinic in Calgary.
Internal Alberta Health documents show Amrhein participated in the Pure North program while he was deputy minister. An Alberta Health spokesperson said Amrhein fully disclosed his relationship with Pure North to the province's ethics commissioner when he assumed that role. Alberta Health declined any further comment for this story.
Ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler told CBC News she questioned Amrhein about his signing of the October 2016 grant. She said Amrhein told her the decision was made elsewhere and he merely signed the agreement in his capacity as deputy minister, after Health Minister Sarah Hoffman had signed off.
If you have any information about this story, or for another story, please contact us in confidence at cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca.




The poor performance of the government of Alberta as revealed by the fiasco of the Pure North funding issue seems hard for me to understanding.
They first make an unwise and wasteful decision to pay this company $10 million when there was absolutely no justification to do this when other more productive science projects could have got this funding.
Then they compound the first mistake by adding another $4.2 million to the project which seems dubious science at best.
It's troubling that no one at the Government of Alberta seems to think these outlays of cash are problematic and a waste of our dollars. In my opinion there needs to be an investigation by the Auditor General of Alberta to determine the decision making tree at Alberta Health (if there is any). If the decision making is a political knee jerk reaction to oil men then I think there needs to be additional rigour to this business.
If we have ordinary citizens off the street making poor politically motivated decisions then this is bad for the public purse and such folks need to trained to be fiscally responsible. If they won't learn I guess this is the purpose of the elections and we fire them.
It's a sad matter when we have $14.2 million dollars wasted on this project with problematic implications for participants and yet no one in government is taking any responsibility for this outlay of cash for no good reason.
The poor decision making in Alberta is not in evidence in BC where this program was shut down. The program in BC was using a vulnerable population as guinea pigs as well but at least the folks in the BC Health department had the brains and political will to shut this baby down. I am curious now if the $4.2 million given recently to Pure North is funding their alternative health program still or whether clients are no longer guinea pigs. Have the folks at Alberta Health realized their mistakes and taken action to protect vulnerable groups from this sort of experimentation?
Vancouver food bank potentially risked clients' health through lax alternative-health program
Public health officials detailed potential health risk created by Alberta-based foundation
By Charles Rusnell, Jennie Russell, CBC News Posted: Apr 03, 2017 5:30 AM MT Last Updated: Apr 03, 2017 5:30 AM MT
B.C. health officials effectively forced the Vancouver food bank to stop Pure North, a private alternative health foundation, from distributing high-dose supplements to clients.
B.C. health officials effectively forced the Vancouver food bank to stop Pure North, a private alternative health foundation, from distributing high-dose supplements to clients. (CBC)
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Charles Rusnell, Jennie Russell
Investigative reporters
Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell are reporters with CBC Investigates, the award-winning investigative unit of CBC Edmonton. Their journalism in the public interest is widely credited with forcing accountability, transparency and democratic change in Alberta. Send tips in confidence to cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca. @charlesrusnell @jennierussell_
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Alberta government did not act on warnings about private alternative health program
British Columbia public health officials effectively forced the Vancouver food bank to shut down a privately funded alternative-health program offered by a wealthy Alberta oilman's non-profit foundation because it posed a potential health risk to thousands of unwitting Lower Mainland food bank clients.
INTERACTIVE: Private Health, Public Risk?
B.C. public health officials mobilized to shut down lax wellness program in food banks
Alberta government did not act on warnings about private alternative health program
Internal B.C. government documents show that from February 2014 until late January 2015, the Pure North S'Energy Foundation, funded by Calgary-based businessman Allan Markin, distributed packets of high-dose supplements to thousands of food bank clients with the permission of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.
Aart Schuurman Hess
Vancouver food bank CEO Aart Schuurman Hess said he was never told in writing about any potential health risks related to the Pure North program. (CBC)
The decisive actions of the B.C. civil servants contrast sharply with Alberta, where Pure North for years has been allowed to operate similar high-dose programs, focusing mostly on "vulnerable populations" at such places as homeless shelters.
Controversial preventive health program seeks public funding
Pure North health program spurs alternative public care debate
Pure North dental care comes with strings, caseworker says
A CBC News investigation found the Alberta government gave Pure North a $10-million grant in 2013 to offer its program to more than 7,000 seniors, despite the fact officials believed the promised health outcomes were not adequately supported by scientific evidence and the program could cause adverse health effects.
3,400 food-bank clients
Internal B.C government documents obtained by CBC News through freedom of information show public health officials determined that more than 3,400 food-bank clients may have received unlabelled, improperly packaged supplements, including vitamin D at a dose higher than the safe tolerable upper intake level recommended by Health Canada — without properly informed consent, counselling or medical supervision.
Dr. Reka Gustafson
Dr. Reka Gustafson, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, told Pure North she had the authority to shut down the supplement distribution program at the food bank. (CBC )
"This program is a population health intervention that is provided without individual assessments, counselling and monitoring as would be offered in a primary health care setting," states a Jan. 19, 2015 report prepared by public health dietitians for Dr. Reka Gustafson, a medical health officer for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.
Two days later, Aart Schuurman Hess, the food bank's chief executive officer and a personal acquaintance of Markin's, suspended the supplement distribution program until a laundry list of health safety concerns could be resolved. But in March 2015, the program was cancelled.
"One of the things that was of real concern to me is this idea that you can bypass the checks and balances that keep people safe," Gustafson told CBC News in an interview. "And you can't.
Stephen Carter
Pure North spokesperson Stephen Carter acknowledges the foundation made mistakes with its food-bank supplement program. (Sam Martin/CBC)
"The same checks and balances that apply to the person who shops at Safeway should apply to the food bank," she said. "And certainly I would think that most people would expect it to."
Stephen Carter, Pure North's vice-president of communications, said he "strongly rejected" the health officials' contention that the foundation had created a health risk. But he acknowledged Pure North had, in some cases, made mistakes.
"We should have done a better job of making sure that we had followed the rules, and we are doing a better job of making sure that we're following the rules," Carter said. "But in terms of the health of these individuals, we are doing the best work that we possibly can to ensure that these people remain healthy and are healthy for a long time."
Schuurman Hess told CBC News he had never been informed, in writing, by health officials about the program's potential health risks they had identified and, as far as he knows, none of the food bank's clients who participated in the voluntary program suffered any adverse effects.
He said he personally invited Pure North to offer its supplement program at the food banks because he believed it was working well in Alberta and even had been financially supported by that province's government.
Alternative health program challenged
Pure North is a privately run, non-profit foundation that offers alternative, preventive health programs, with a primary focus on preventing chronic disease through high doses of vitamins and supplements, including vitamin D. Pure North claims its program, if broadly implemented, would save governments hundreds of millions of dollars each year in health care spending.
Pure North
B.C. public health officials found several health risks associated with Pure North’s distribution of high-dose supplements at Vancouver food banks. (CBC)
The foundation focuses on vulnerable populations such as the homeless, addicted and elderly. It claims that since 2007 more than 50,000 people have participated in its program in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.
Obtained through freedom of information, the internal documents detail a concerted effort by B.C. public health officials — spearheaded by a group of dietitians and medical health officers — to methodically identify potential health risks to the food-bank clients and to formulate an "action plan" to address them.
The documents also reveal health officials weren't afraid to confront Markin, the former chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, the giant Alberta oil and gas company. In 2015, Canadian Business magazine estimated the personal fortune of Markin, who is also part owner of the Calgary Flames, was more than $600 million.
In a Feb. 5, 2015 internal email, Gustafson describes a meeting with the "fantastically rich Alberta 'oil man' " and several Pure North staff.
"We spent a fair amount of time explaining the authority required to practise public health and make recommendations for a population. I am not entirely sure if this sunk in," Gustafson wrote, adding later that health officials had the power to shut down the program if it wasn't done voluntarily.
"We said that we didn't want to mandate them, but that we had the authority under the Public Health Act to do so. (That was kind of fun.)," Gustafson wrote, telling CBC later she was prepared to exercise that authority if the food bank didn't voluntarily stop Pure North from distributing the supplements.
Health risks identified
The internal B.C. documents detail a troubling list of issues identified by the public health officials, including that:
Pure North employed unlicensed Filipino nurses who distributed packets of high-dose supplements to clients who had not been properly informed about the potential risks.
Clients were not seen by a doctor and no medical history was taken. Although clients were required to complete a "toxicity symptom list" each month, the forms were not reviewed and no interpretation or counselling was provided.
Pure North distributed a tablet containing 4,000 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of vitamin C. Manufactured for Pure North, it did not have a natural product number from Health Canada, which is required to verify its strength, purity and safety. Health Canada subsequently issued a compliance letter to Pure North, but did not sanction the foundation.
The 4,000 IU vitamin D tablet was also distributed without a prescription, which is required in B.C. Pure North admitted it did not know it needed a prescription.
Clients received a total daily dose of 5,000 to 6,000 IU of vitamin D in their packets. Health Canada's safe tolerable upper intake level for Vitamin D is 4,000 IU.
Pure North provided clients with a 30-day supply of supplements in clear, sealed plastic bags. The bags contained individual packets that were unlabelled, in contravention of federal regulations. The supplements also were not in tamper-proof containers, a "safety issue for children who may think they are candy."
Pure North also gave clients a small bottle of iodine drops, which can be toxic in excessive doses.
Health officials were also concerned food-bank clients may not be able to understand the consent form they had to sign before receiving the packet of Pure North supplements, or understand the type of supplements they were given.
Issues rectified
Pure North spokesperson Stephen Carter said clients weren't seen by a doctor, and their medical histories weren't taken, because the foundation mistakenly believed it was distributing vitamin D within Health Canada's 4,000 IU safe upper level. Health Canada's recommended dietary allowances for vitamin D are 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for those aged one to 70, and 800 IU for adults over 70.
Vitamin D Recommended Dietary Allowance
A graphic shows the difference between the levels of vitamin D Health Canada recommends, and the levels Pure North recommended in a March 2015 advertising campaign. (CBC)
Carter said Pure North rectified every issue identified by health authorities. Every participant in a Pure North program in B.C. is now seen by a naturopathic doctor. The foundation stopped distributing the supplement that wasn't Health Canada approved. And documents show the foundation also corrected the labelling and packaging issues.
Before Pure North rectified the safety issues, public health officials, including Gustafson, conveyed several of their concerns in sometimes tense meetings with Pure North representatives and also with food-bank management.
A series of sometimes tense meetings followed between the public-health officials and Pure North, and one meeting where food bank management attended.
Following one such meeting in January 2015, Schuurman Hess announced the food bank was suspending the program.
On March 5, 2015, Schuurman Hess told public health officials the food bank and Pure North had mutually decided to end the controversial supplement distribution program.
"Both parties thought it better to go their own way," Schuurman Hess wrote in a follow-up email, in which he sought to distance the food banks he oversaw from a wellness program that for nearly a year he had allowed to operate, unfettered, within their walls.
"That way it doesn't affect our services and (standing) in the community. Although we only facilitated (Pure North), the community may consider this to be a food bank program, which it is not."
If you have any information about this story, or for another potential story, please contact us in confidence at cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca
@charlesrusnell
@jennierussell_
British Columbia public health officials effectively forced the Vancouver food bank to shut down a privately funded alternative-health program offered by a wealthy…
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