Many traditional Chinese herbal medicines sold in western countries contain a “cocktail” of pesticide residues which exceed safe levels, research by Greenpeace suggests.
India is among the fastest growing importers of traditional Chinese medicine and herbs. According to China Daily, such exports to India rose by 28.24 percent year-on-year between 2011 and 2012.
Testing of 36 samples of herbal products imported from China, including chrysanthemum, wolfberry, honeysuckle, dried lily bulb, san qi, Chinese date and rosebud, found 32 contained residues of three or more pesticides.
A report by Greenpeace said traditional Chinese herbs were becoming increasingly known and accepted in the West, where they were purchased for medicinal use, and the export market was worth £1.5bn in 2011.
But almost half the samples (17) collected in various Western countries had residues of pesticides considered highly hazardous by the World Health Organisation, although in low concentrations.
Of 29 samples of products bought in European countries, 26 showed pesticide residues in quantities exceeding maximum safe levels set by EU authorities, Greenpeace said.
The presence of pesticide residues in what should be natural Chinese herbs should not be seen as an isolated case, but as “another example of the failure of chemical-intensive agriculture in China and around the world,” the report said.
The green group warned long-term exposure to pesticide residues can have health impacts, such as reproductive abnormalities, while acute exposure to the chemicals can lead to poisoning of farm workers.
Commenting on the findings from Greenpeace East Asia, Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist with Greenpeace UK, said: “The toxic chemicals found in these products pose a real health risk to consumers.
“People who use these products do so hoping to ease medical conditions and improve their health - they will be shocked to learn that along with natural herbs they have been taking, they are exposing themselves to a synthetic cocktail of potentially dangerous pesticides.
“The UK Government and the EU must improve their testing regime for products imported from China,” he said.