Chinese MedicineConsumer AlertHeavy Metals

The pet food recall and the CAM connection

The Associated Press is reporting a second tainted pet food ingredient, which has added more pet food products to the recall list.

The connection with CAM is that contamination is not a new or rare event when it comes to food imports from China or traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

As reported on the Aubrey Organics website, traditional Chinese medicines are available in most health food stores and supermarkets (particularly San Francisco and Manhattan). Some of the dried herbs are even sold in the bulk sections of natural food stores.

Yet, a 1998 report from the California Department of Health Services published in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that of 260 traditional Chinese patent medicines tested?

  • 32% contained unlabeled and potentially harmful ingredients.
  • 24 remedies tested positive for high levels of lead.
  • 36 contained unacceptable levels of arsenic.
  • 35 were contaminated with the poisonous heavy metal mercury.
  • 17 contained unlisted pharmaceutical drugs.

Another study reported that more than half (53%) of the adulterated TCMs contained at least 2 adulterants.

And the problem continues today.

Now we learn that the Chinese have refused or are stalling on granting visas to FDA inspectors seeking to visit the plants where the ingredients for the contaminated pet foods were made. Senator Dick Durbin says “It troubles me greatly the Chinese are making it more difficult to understand what led to this pet food crisis.”

The bottom line?
A congressional committee is holding a food safety hearing next Tuesday and is expected to discuss the pet food recall. I think the agenda should be expanded to include TCM human products.

We should be less impressed by the millennia of experience with TCM and more concerned about the lack of quality control in Chinese agricultural products and patent medicines.

4/19/07 07:49 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.