Officials test traditional Chinese medicines, find 12% are substandard

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Officials test traditional Chinese medicines, find 12% are substandard

Related tags Beijing

More than one in 10 traditional Chinese medicine materials and tablets have been found to be substandard, prompting the country’s drug watchdog to declare the situation as “not optimistic”.

A random check by authorities found irregularities that included artificial colouring, weight-increasing practices and contamination by counterfeit or substandard ingredients in 93 out of 772 batches of TCM samples, according to a statement released by the China Food and Drug Administration.

Levels of deception

Sold by weight and mostly processed from plants and animals parts, TCM ingredients are often altered through deceptive practices such as soaking them in salt water to increase their weight and mixing them with cheap but similar materials, Xinhua, China’s official news agency reported.

The CFDA statement also noted that the tested products had been randomly collected from TCM manufacturers, sellers and users across China, adding that groups related to questionable products were bound to be punished by local drug administrations. However, the statement did not name any of the specific companies involved.

The CFDA vowed to strengthen quality supervision of TCM products and severely crack down on illegal fraud that harms the interests of consumers and drug safety.

Tourism promotion might be hit

The news comes shortly after Beijing tourism authorities earlier this week announced they would use TCM as a means to boost its tourism industry. According to Beijing Commission of Tourism deputy director Wang Yue, the capital’s tour operators have been highlighting traditional medicines as a tourist draw for the last month.

Over the last two years, Beijing has been struggling to attract inbound tourists even though outbound tourism numbers been strong. The Beijing Bureau of Statistics reported year-on-year declines of 5.9% in inbound tourism. The data also shows Beijing has received 2.36 million overseas guests.

This drop has been attributed largely to the continuing popularity of cities and other tourist destinations in Jiangsu and Tianjin, which has offered tough competition.

Deputy Director Wang said she was confident that TCM would provide a boon to the capital’s tourism industry, adding that the city had the potential to become a more diverse vacation destination for tourists. 

Moreover, she said work to promote Beijing’s TCM culture would in part help address issues over the scarcity of middle- and high-end tourism products in Beijing. However, the news of the tested TCM products will no doubt be a hinderance to these plans if the authorities cannot reassure the public that checks are in place to ensure greater consistency in quality.

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