The top 10 imported Chinese medicines will require safety certification from Aug. 1, as well as improved labeling, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Importers of these herbs and medicines will be required to provide certification, said Huang Lin-huang (黃林煌), chairman of the DOH’s Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy.
Chinese dates, astragalus root, dong quai (當歸) and Chinese liquorice will also be subjected to customs’ sample inspections because these four items often fail pesticide safety standards as well as showing traces of heavy metals and aflatoxins, Huang said.
The moves are part of a three-phase plan by the department to control the safety of Chinese herbs and to regulate medication sourcing.
The first phase includes requiring clearly labeled packaging for 324 of the approximately 600 kinds of Chinese herbs and medicinal products on the local market.
Phase two includes establishing inspection standards to check for abnormal levels of residues of things like heavy metals and aflatoxins in 91 types of herbs, while the final phase is to establish import source control mechanisms.
Huang also said that potentially harmful substances should carry a barcode so that their source can be verified and the public can be informed about the toxic properties of the medication.
Toxic substances are sometimes added to traditional Chinese medicines to give the recipient the feeling that the medicine is working.
Huang said the barcoding of poisonous substances, including arsenic, toad venom extract and realgar will be completed by next year.
Taiwan imports more than 600 Chinese medicinal products, more than 90 percent of which come from China. DOH statistics show that in 2009, Taiwan imported 3,086 tonnes of Chinese red dates, 2,935 tonnes of astralagus root, 2,041 tonnes of dong quai and 1,455 tonnes of Chinese liquorice.