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Contaminated Chinese herb Rhizoma Atractylodis recalled


The Department of Health (DH) today (July 1) instructed the importer and its wholesalers and retailers to recall a Chinese herb Rhizoma Atractylodis following confirmation of three herbal poisoning cases.

The instruction was made following DH's investigation into three suspected herbal poisoning cases reported by the Hospital Authority on June 25 and 29, 2004.

All of the three patients developed symptoms including dry mouth, flushing, difficulty in passing urine, confusion shortly after taking herbal formulations prescribed by a Chinese medicine practitioner and obtained from the herbal shop.

DH's investigation revealed that one of the herbs in the formulation of all these three patients known as Rhizoma Atractylodis contained unknown herb(s) as impurities and were tested positive for scopolamine and atropine. It was therefore believed that these impurities were the cause of intoxication.

Upon tracing of the source of the herbs, it was revealed that the contamination was at the importer level. Samples from the importer, wholesaler and retailer were tested positive for scopolamine and atropine.

All of these three patients recovered and were discharged upon treatment.

Rhizoma Atractylodis is a commonly used herb and does not contain scopolamine or atropine. The herb itself is not toxic.

A spokesman for DH said, "There is effective treatment for both scopolamine and atropine poisoning. DH has instructed the importer and its wholesalers and retailers to recall the herb from the market. Investigation is continuing."

No further case was reported after June 29, 2004. Members of the public who have purchased the herb from these shops are advised to stop using it and seek advice from their Chinese medicine practitioners or their attending doctors.

A telephone enquiry service (Tel 2209 9445) will be operated during office hours from tomorrow to answer public enquiries.

Ends/Thursday, July 1, 2004


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