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Company says ginseng batch contaminated

May 21, 1998
Web posted at: 2:15 p.m. EDT (1815 GMT)
ginseng root
The ginseng root  

ATLANTA (CNN) -- If you use the herb ginseng, beware: There is concern that some ginseng products may be contaminated with the fungicide quintozene, also known as PCNB.

Quintozene is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Special Health Hazard Substance List." It can damage liver and kidneys, interfere with the blood's ability to carry oxygen and cause eye damage or cancer.

PharmaPrint, a testing company in California, alerted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after it found quintozene in a raw sample of ginseng that had been provided for testing by Hauser Chemical Research Inc., a major supplier of raw herbs.

Officials still don't know if shipments of raw ginseng to other manufacturers were tainted or if the tainted ginseng made its way into products that are now on shelves for consumers to buy.

"That's a concern," said Elliot Friedman of PharmaPrint. "We think there's a reasonably high likelihood that it's out there in stores right now."

A California company found the fungicide quintozene in a shipment of raw ginseng  

Hauser, based in Boulder, Colorado, told CNN it has stopped all ginseng processing and shipments of ginseng products until further testing can be done.

"I can tell you PCNB is not acceptable in ginseng or any other herbal product in the marketplace at any level," Friedman said.

Most products containing quintozene are banned in the United States. The substance is an organochlorine fungicide used at planting to treat seeds and soil.

Ginseng is the second most popular herb sold in the United States. Consumers use it to treat common ailments ranging from depression and fatigue to the common cold and other respiratory problems.

PharmaPrint suggests consumers contact their health care providers for guidance.

Correspondent Rhonda Rowland contributed to this report.


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