A regional standard for ginseng in Asia currently being drawn up by Codex should only cover one species of the herb, the International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) has said.
The draft standard by the Codex Coordinating Committee for Asia (CCASIA) recommends applying the standard to species Panax quinquefolius and Panax ginseng. The Codex Alimentarius Commission has said that once the regional standard has been adopted, discussions would begin as to whether or not to the standard should be converted into an international standard.
However, only one species of ginseng should be regulated under the regional Codex Standard for Ginseng Products, IADSA said on Friday. And the group, which represents 58 national trade associations across six continents, has called for Codex to remove P. quinquefolius from the draft.
It says that integrating more than one species to the standard would be outside of Codex's scientific resources. Guidelines to regulate ginseng in Asia by Codex have already been more than two years in the making. When a draft set of regulations were first mooted it spelled the beginning of the herbal being accepted as a food ingredient rather than a drug.
Since then changes have been made to the draft, and earlier this year P. notoginseng Burk and derived products were deleted from the list. David Pineda, IADSA's manager of regulatory affairs, explained: "Panax ginseng is the main species in Asia, and as the regional standard will apply to the Asian members of Codex only, it is logical that it should cover only this species."
The decision to endorse the standard as regional is currently at step five of the eight-step Codex decision-making procedure. The ginseng standard includes requirements on quality, methods of production of the herbal and product characteristics.
Ginseng is typically taken to enhance stamina and reduce feelings of fatigue and physical stress. It is also believed to have an anti-cancer function and has been reported to normalise blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of obesity.
The herb has been gaining popularity in Western societies, finding its way into, for example, energy drinks. In the US it is estimated to be the second top-selling herbal supplement, with $62m (€48.2m) in annual sales last year.