Technically, the approval was cleared last month, but it has only just been revealed in public - last week, Zhang Lianxue, a ginseng expert at Jilin Agricultural University, made the announcement at a conference. Jilin province accounts for 70% of the world ginseng production.
A spokesperson for China’s health ministry told FoodNavigator-Asia that the approval is for cultivated ginseng and applies to food products. However, he was unable to specify if only certain categories were approved.
The Ministry of Health and the State Food and Drug Administration have for years approved cultivated ginseng for drugs, although they have never permitted its use in food products. Even so, the Chinese have for generations used the ingredient in home-cooked food, such as chicken and porridge, and it has also been consumed as an energy drink for over 3,000 years.
Ginseng was first approved as an ingredient for food products back in 2009 at the 32nd meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, when the commission also approved the international standard of food products derived from ginseng.
Lianxue said that the approval is likely to increase ginseng cultivation, and boost research and development on ginseng products. Most of this growth is likely to come in the province of Jilin, where 70% of the world’s ginseng is cultivated.
Not long after the Codex meeting, the Chinese health ministry began preparing to develop the local ginseng industry. In early 2011, Jilin was picked as a pilot site for the addition of cultivated ginseng food products.