THURSDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- DNA analysis of traditional Chinese medicines that were seized by Australian customs officials revealed that many contained plant ingredients in quantities and combinations that could have produced allergic or even toxic reactions among consumers.
What's more, the high-tech investigation unearthed evidence that some of the medicines also contained animal parts from species that have been officially recognized as either vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.
"When you buy a food product at the supermarket, whether it is locally grown or imported, you expect that the manufacturing standards are high, that the product is safe and that the ingredient list accurately depicts what is in the product," suggested study co-author Michael Bunce, from the Australian Wildlife Forensic Services and Ancient DNA Laboratory within the school of biological sciences and biotechnology at Murdoch University in Murdoch, Australia. "Surely the same, or greater, level of regulation is expected of herbal medicines?" he added.
"A DNA audit of the 15 traditional Chinese medicine samples revealed that this is not occurring," Bunce noted. "Put simply, there are illegal ingredients and the products do not accurately declare their ingredients."
Bunce and his colleagues report their findings in the April issue of PLoS Genetics.
The authors noted that as interest in alternative and complementary medicine has grown in recent decades, the Chinese medicine industry has exploded and generates hundreds of millions of dollars.
But until recently, scientists have had difficulty trying to accurately analyze the ingredient lists of all the varying powders, tablets, capsules, flakes and herbal teas that make up the Chinese medicine market.
Enter DNA sequencing technology.
Armed with the latest technology, the Australian team focused it
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