Consumer group finds contaminants in Chinese medicine samples
Taipei, March 12 (CNA) The Consumers' Foundation said Friday that a 2020 lab analysis it commissioned of 241 samples of traditional Chinese medicine found that several of the samples contained either Western medicine or excessive levels of mercury.
At a press conference, foundation chairman Terry Huang (黃怡騰) said the group tested the samples at the request of members of the public.
Of the total, he said, 37 of the samples were tested for Western medicine content and comprised 13 samples sourced from hospitals and clinics, 12 from pharmacies and 12 of "uncertain origin."
The other 204 samples were tested for one of three heavy metals -- 71 were tested for lead, 65 for cadmium and 68 for mercury -- of which 140 were from clinics and hospitals, 24 from pharmacies and 30 of "uncertain origin," Huang said.
In terms of the results, four of the 37 samples, all from unknown sources, were found to contain up to three types of Western medicine each, according to Huang.
These included drugs typically used for pain relief, weight loss, treatment of arthritis, allergies and the common cold, as well as a cough suppressant, he said.
Of the four samples, two had been received as gifts and two were purchased by an acquaintance at the recipient's request, he added, which is why their actual points of origin were not clear.
Huang noted that under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act, Chinese medicine containing Western pharmaceutical ingredients is considered counterfeit, and its sale is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of NT$50 million (US$1.77 million).
Meanwhile, two of the 68 samples tested for mercury were found to contain excess levels (over 30 parts per million) of the substance, Huang said, adding that both of the contaminated samples were sold at pharmacies.
These findings were of particular concern, he said, as both samples were intended for children -- one to stimulate growth and the other as a neuroleptic and anti-seizure medicine.
Based on the group's findings, Huang urged the public to be wary of using traditional Chinese medicine from unknown sources, noting that no contamination was found in the samples prescribed at hospitals or clinics.
The group did not speculate on the source of the mercury contamination, but did note that cinnabar, a traditional Chinese medicine ingredient, is banned in Taiwan due to its mercury content.
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