UK busts more contaminated Chinese herbal medicines; ‘We are fed up’ says industry

By Shane STARLING contact

- Last updated on GMT

Simon Mills: “Even executing the head of the regulator in China does not seem to be able to stem this stuff.”
Simon Mills: “Even executing the head of the regulator in China does not seem to be able to stem this stuff.”

Related tags: Chinese herbology

The UK has issued yet another contamination warning against Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCMs) claiming to treat conditions like menstrual pain and hair loss – leaving the local industry exasperated at the seemingly endless litany of cases.

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) testing found potentially dangerous levels of lead, mercury and arsenic in products like Bak Foong Pills (menstrual pain) and Hairegenerator (hair loss).

The same products had previously been recalled by authorities in Hong Kong with contamination up to 11 times above permitted levels of lead and mercury.

The MHRA reported that the Swedish National Food Agency (SFNA) has also found raised arsenic levels in products like Niu-Huang Chieh-tu-pein, Divya Kaishore Guggul and Chandraprabha Vati used for treatment of mumps, sore throat, tonsillitis, toothache, skin infections, anorexia and fever in children.

Fed up


Simon Mills, secretary of the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) told us the quality control conscious local sector was growing weary of the barrage of contamination episodes almost always emanating out of China.

“This is a long term problem that does not seem to be getting any better,”​ Mills said.

“I am sure the MHRA is as focused on this as they can be but frankly we are all fed up with this - it is almost unpoliceable - no QA/QC regime can manage stuff that does not go through any identifiable channel - and constantly undermines the rest of the herbal sector.”

“Even executing the head of the regulator in China does not seem to be able to stem this stuff.”

MHRA: “Natural does not mean safe.”

The MHRA warned consumers off buying products which remained on-sale online, “as they have not been assessed for safety and quality and standards can vary widely.”

“The adulteration of traditional Chinese medicines with heavy metals is a significant international problem and can pose a serious risk to public health,”​ said Richard Woodfield, MHRA’s head of herbal policy.

“Natural does not mean safe. To help you choose an herbal medicine that is suitable for you, look for a product that has a Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) or product licence number on the packaging. These products have met the acceptable quality and safety standards.

“If you think you have taken any of these products please speak to your doctor for advice.  If you think you have suffered a side effect from these, or any medicines, please tell us about it through our Yellow Card Scheme.”

CORRECTION: ​Originally, this article erroneously displayed an image of an Eu Yan Sang product, which has not been recalled in Hong Kong, the UK or Sweden. We hereby clarify that the recalled product is not a product or products of Eu Yan Sang. Eu Yan Sang International Limited's products are not associated with this story.

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