These supplements were found to contain substances that are banned in the country or pharmaceutical ingredients.
Three in four of them were US brands. Examples include sexual enhancement capsule product ‘Testosterone Rush’ from the Giant Health Benefit and weight loss product ‘Bikini Me’ from GP Nutrition.
Icariin, an anti-atherosclerotic pharmaceutical ingredient, was found in ‘Testosterone Rush’. As for ‘Bikini Me’, 5-hydroxytryptophan – an ingredient for relieving insomnia and depression was found.
Both ingredients are not allowed to be added in foods and supplements.
The findings were based on an inspection conducted by South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS).
An inspection on 544 overseas supplements sold in the country via e-commerce was conducted the first half of this year.
Most of them are weight management products (323), the rest are mostly sexual enhancement products (71) or muscle strengthening products (62).
Twelve of them (2.2%) were found to contain illegal substances. Of which, nine were from the US. There was one product from China, Canada, and Japan each.
NutraIngredients-Asia has contacted to Giant Health Benefit and GP Nutrition for comments but have not received any response as of the time of publication.
Aside from the above inspection, MFDS also found another 116 problematic supplements made overseas based on a review.
Most contained pharmaceutical ingredients such as erectile dysfunction drugs sildenafil and yohimbine or were contaminated with bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum and Chronobacter.
Examples included Bimbosan bio-2 which was contaminated with cronobacter sakazakii and Colon Cleanse, which was found to contain the pharmaceutical ingredient cascaroside.
All of these products, amounting to a total of 128, have been blacklisted by MFDS and the Korea Customs have been notified to stop the products from entering the country.
Again, most of these products came from the US, with a handful from China, Europe, and Canada.
The authority also pointed out since these products were directly bought from overseas and did not undergo formal import procedures, more attention was required.
“As the safety of products purchased through overseas direct purchases has not been confirmed since they have not undergone formal import procedures, special care is required.
“This includes checking in advance whether or not the products were blacklisted for importation into South Korea,” the MFDS said in a statement.
On the other hand, the ministry said it would continue to strengthen the management of products that have been receiving attention due to COVID-19.
This include milk powder, jelly, and foods that claim to improve immunity.