Council plans to certify Chinese health foods

A council featuring researchers from Japan and China said it will establish by autumn 2003 a certification system aimed at verifying the safety and effects of Chinese health foods.

The move comes in the wake of a series of recent deaths and illnesses linked to Chinese dietary aids.

The council said Friday that it aims to forge ties with academic associations and civic groups in China to counter health hazards, according to council members.

They added that anxiety over health products has spread throughout Japan as individual purchases of imported products not certified by Chinese authorities have increased.

It also hopes to suppress the circulation of fake “yakuzen” that are not based on authentic traditional Chinese medicine, the council members said. Yakuzen are traditional Chinese health foods.

Out of around 3,200 products approved by China’s Ministry of Health, the council will approve a list of “international yakuzen.”

Products that are shown to be based on oriental medicine — with their effects statistically verified — and produced by companies free of any safety blemishes will be approved by the council.

About 300 products currently fall into this category, the council said.

The council may include ingredients, preparation methods, restaurants and manufacturers among the targets of the certification system.

The council was established in June by health food experts and researchers from Japan and China to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry received more than 580 reports of illnesses tied to the use of dietary aids from China over the summer, including four fatalities.

Many of the victims purchased these products online.