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Endangered species found in Chinese medicines

NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, 2012

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Endangered animal DNA has been found in some Chinese remedies
“DNA testing of traditional Chinese medicines has shown that many contain traces of endangered animals,” The Independent has today reported.
The tests were performed by Australian scientists devising new ways to detect exactly what plant and animal materials are actually contained in traditional Chinese medicines and herbal teas.
Knowing exactly what is in some traditional products can often be difficult, and in the past some have been found to contain materials from endangered species, banned medicines and toxic metals.
The research was designed to create a new testing procedure rather than assess products on sale legally, and only tested samples of products seized by customs for breaking international endangered species trading rules.
Some samples were found to contain DNA from potentially harmful plants, and also from endangered species such as black bears and antelope.
Not all of the samples that contained animal DNA had been labelled as containing material from animals.
Given that the samples were all seized products, the results do not necessarily represent products that are imported legally.
However, it does raise the important issue that these medicines may not always be labelled appropriately, and that consumers should be aware of this and view these medicines with caution.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority states that “there are some traditional Chinese medicine products on the UK market that may be manufactured to low quality standards and may be deliberately adulterated or accidentally contaminated with toxic or illegal ingredients”.