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“Poison, Not Tonic”: Poisonous Ginseng Merchandised

Posted February. 02, 2005 22:57,   


Authorities prosecuted several merchants in the Gyungdong market for disguising Chinese ginseng with pesticides which can induce cancer as domestic ginsengs.

It was found out that the Chinese ginseng that these merchants sold included agricultural chemicals like benzene hexachloride (BHC) and Quintozene 1.5 to 40 times more than allowed limits.

The criminal department division 2 of the Seoul District Public Prosecutors` Office (Chief Prosecutor Sung Shi-woong) reported on February 2 that four merchants including Song (49) from S ginseng company were indicted for a violation of the Food Sanitation Act, and 13 merchants including Kim (64, female) were indicted without physical detention through joint investigation with the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service under the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry.

Prosecutors also charged five people including Lim (54) without restriction for violating the ginseng industry law. The prosecuted people had untested domestic ginseng for sale.

According to the authorities, Song disguised 425kg of Chinese red ginseng worth 45 million won as Korea ginseng from July 2003 to December 2004, and earned excessive profits of 30 million won. The Chinese ginseng he sold included 8.0 ppm of benzene hexachloride, which is 40 times more than what is allowed (0.2 ppm), and 1.77 ppm of Quintozene which is 1.77 times more than what is allowed (1.0 ppm).

Benzene hexachloride (BHC) is an insecticide which can cause cancer, vomiting, convulsions, uneasiness, and muscle convulsions. Quintozene is used to prevent food from decaying, and when eaten, it can cause macula and itchiness.

The prosecutors reported that 600g of four-year old domestic red ginseng can be purchased for 80,000~100,000 won, and sold for 120,000~160,000 won. However, the merchants bought Chinese ginseng at 20 thousand won per 600g and sold them for 60,000~100,000 won by disguising them as domestic ginseng.

Sang-Rok Lee myzodan@donga.com