Australia, Denmark issue warnings against tainted herbal supplements

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Australia, Denmark issue warnings against tainted herbal supplements

Related tags World health organization Alternative medicine Medicine Ayurveda

Australians and Danes are being warned off contaminated, herbal food supplements with both countries highlighting grey or black market internet or overseas trade as the major source of the products.

The Australian case involved an Ayurvedic product called Vatyog (pictured) that was found to be contaminated with 448μg of lead per capsule and which caused a man seeking back pain relief to ingest more than 30 times the World Health Organization daily limits of 3.5 μg (taking two capsules per day).

The man took Vatyog and two other Ayurvedic medicines for three months.

Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia​, Drs Nilika G Wijeratne, James C G Doery and Andis Graudins noted quality control problems that exist in any industry when products are purchased outside authorised supply channels.

“In Australia, traditional Indian and Chinese medicines authorised for supply are regulated as complementary medicines and must meet manufacturing and quality standards that ensure the absence of contaminants,”​ they observed.

“However, there is no quality control of medications imported for personal use or purchased over the internet. Importantly, this case involved tablets prepared by a registered pharmaceutical manufacturer and presented in sophisticated packaging. Reports of lead contamination from traditional Indian and Chinese medicines have been intermittently publicised and include recent warnings from the New South Wales Health Department concerning Ayurvedic medicines.”

Lead poisoning can cause headaches, fatigue, muscle pains, constipation, vomiting, anaemia and can affect cognitive function.

Australian doctors were advised to consult patients about their complementary and alternative medicines use.


In Scandinavia, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) has issued a warning against three products - super pump 250, Vault Citrus Punch and MET-RX Thermal Infusion – all being sold via the internet as muscle-building and weight loss products.

DVFA said the products contained Huperzin A, which it noted even small doses had the potential to affect, “the central nervous system and can cause acute muscle tremors, incontinence and watering of the eyes.”

Huperzin A is a trade name for the extract of the plants Huperzia serrata​ and Huperzia selago L​, which also goes under names such as toothed club moss, trains-Shiba, fir club moss or northern fir-moss. Products containing these extracts are freely available on the internet in many locations.

“If you have purchased supplements containing the substance Huperzin A, you should throw them out or if possible return them to the company where you bought them,”​ the DVFA warned.

It recommended consumers in doubt about products visit a website​ where all authorised food supplements for sale in Denmark were listed.

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