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'Substandard' astragali sent back to China: gov't

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) recently detected excess metal in two batches of astragali shipped from mainland China. The ministry has requested that the batches be returned and that inspection rates for the industry's future imports be increased.

Chen Pin-chi (陳聘琪), the MHW's division chief of the National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine, said yesterday that the two batches of astragali, which were 5,290 kilograms in total weight, were deemed substandard when put through colorimetric analysis. Imports in the future will only be allowed if the next three consecutive batches of five times the quantity of the rejected batches are eligible.

The MHW accepted 4,304 cases of imported Chinese herbal medication between August 2012 and May 2014. Ten main ingredients of herbal medication, a total of 21,297 tonnes, met the Taiwanese weight-limitation standard. Of the 5 percent that included astragali, dates, angelica and licorice that were selected for random checking, only two items of astragali were substandard.

The MHW started the Chinese Medical Source Management program in August 2012 following the cross-strait medical and health cooperation agreement. The program included dates, astragali, angelica, licorice, rehmannia glutinosa, ligusticum wallichii, poria, roots of herbaceous peony, atractylodes, eucommia, etc. as necessary ingredients that need inspection. They requested certification of passed inspection as well as documentation proving they had passed R.O.C. safety standards. Four items (dates, astragali, angelica and licorice) need to undergo border inspections.

Chen said that other imported Chinese medicines would need to be heavily inspected in the future. He denied that defective products have been imported into Taiwanese markets, and also asked civilians to not buy Chinese medication of unknown origin.

Chen asked Chinese medication users to rinse the medicines thoroughly before use to ensure maximum safety and to abolish abnormal substances that may remain after storage.

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