Go to contents

Metal-laced Chinese Herbal Medicine Found

Posted October. 02, 2008 08:48,   


Chinese herbal medicine found tainted with metallic substances is raising fear in Korea in the wake of the scare involving melamine in Chinese food imports.

A Korean government report said yesterday that 870 tons of herbal medicine imported from China were found to contain high levels of heavy metallic substances and destroyed. Another 160 tons of herbal medicine that can cause addiction were also circulated in the Korean market.

The report on the quality of Chinese herbal medicine was submitted by the Korea Food and Drug Administration to ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Im Doo-sung. It said that among herbal medicine imported from China between 2006 and June this year, 322 items were declared inappropriate and 870.2 tons were destroyed.

The main reason for the medicine’s rejection was exceeding the legal limit of concentration of heavy metal such as lead, cadmium and arsenic with 95 cases. The most frequently rejected items were hemp (30 cases) and antlers (18).

“Tongcho,” which was imported in June, was found to have 2.7 parts per million of cadmium, nine times the legal limit.

Korea imports 19,650 tons of herbal medicine from China a year, or 78.5 percent of Korea’s overall herbal medicine imports of 25,046 tons.

According to another report on policies for Oriental medicine and addiction-causing medicine that surveyed 546 types of herbal medicine imports, 53.3 percent or 202 items were distributed to wholesale dealers without undergoing quality inspections.

The report was submitted by the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry to lawmaker Choi Young-hee of the main opposition Democratic Party.

The supervision of herbal medicine having the risk of addiction is also lacking. Of 28 kinds of Oriental medicine designated as medicinal toxic substances and under strict supervision in China, only seven items are classified as such in Korea.

Subsequently, 166.6 tons of seven addictive medicines were imported from China and circulated in the market last year. Also imported and distributed were 162 tons of “saengbanha,” which can cause convulsions and asphyxia; 1,020 kilograms of “saengcheongeumja,” which can cause respiratory and circulatory disorders; and 987 kilograms of “saengnangdok,” which can cause stomachache, diarrhea and miscarriage.

Choi said, “The Health Ministry conducted a survey to expand the list of addictive herbal medicines subject to quality inspection last year, but no revision has been made. Stricter supervision standards are urgently needed.”

zozo@donga.com gaea@donga.com