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Top ten imports of Chinese medicine to require certification

TAIPEI--The top 10 imported Chinese medicines are to require safety certification beginning Aug. 1, as well as improved labeling, a Department of Health (DOH) official said yesterday.

Importers of these most commonly herbs and medicines from China will be required to provide the certification, said Hwang Lin-huang, chairman of the Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy under the DOH.

Chinese dates, astragalus root, dong quai and Chinese liquorice will also require sample inspections at customs because these four items often fail inspection standards for pesticides, heavy metals and aflatoxins, said Hwang.

The moves are part of a three-phase plan by the department to control the food safety of Chinese herbs and regulate the source of medication.

The first phase includes clearly labeled packaging for 324 of the approximately 600 kinds of Chinese herbs and related products on the local market.

Phase two of the department's plans includes establishing inspection standards for abnormal amounts of residue such as heavy metals and aflatoxins in 91 different herbs, while the final phase is to establish import source control mechanisms.

Hwang also said that poisonous Chinese medicine should be barcoded to control the source and allow the public to reference the toxic properties of the medication.

Toxic substances are sometimes added to traditional Chinese medicine to give the recipient the feeling that the medicine is working.

Hwang said the barcoding of such poisonous substances including arsenic, venenum bufonis and realgar will be completed by next year.

Taiwan imports over 600 types of Chinese medicine, more than 90 percent of which comes from China.

According to DOH statistics from 2009, Taiwan imported 3,086 metric tons of Chinese red dates in that year, followed by 2,935 metric tons of astralagus root, 2,041 metric tons of dong quai and 1,455 metric tons of Chinese liquorice.

The commission already regulates 18 Chinese herbal imports, including goji berries and chrysanthemum, Hwang added.

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Hwang Lin-huang (黃林煌) of the Department of Health's Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy, is shown in Taipei, yesterday. Importers of the top 10 imported herbs and medicines from China will be required to provide certifications starting Aug. 1, said Hwang.

(CNA)

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