January 26, 2010 14:26
Starting as early as April it may become mandatory for oriental medicine to bear a label denoting the country of origin of ingredients. The motion proposed by a Grand National Party lawmaker is expected to pass through the National Assembly in February.
Information regarding a variety of herbal medicine will be recorded in a public database allowing consumers to check facts such as origin and distribution details for both imported and domestically grown herbs.
The ministries of health and food are planning to require labels for the 14 most common products first and then to expand the system to include to some 546 medicines.
The new measure are meant to prevent cheap imported herbs being labeled and sold as more expensive domestic ones. In 2008 about 136,000 tons of medicinal herbs were consumed in Korea, with only 55,000 tons being domestically produced. In the case of some items such as cinnamon and licorice up to 99 percent is being imported.
Also, medicinal ingredients that are not subject to labeling laws, including non-registered herbs, will not be permitted to be sold mixed with products for which labeling regulations apply. A ministry official said this way customers can gain some reassurance about the medicines they take.
Foodstuffs containing medicinal herbs already require a label revealing the country of origin, but this is the first time that the regulations will be expanded to cover herbal medicines used to treat a variety of health problems.
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