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FDA Probes Ginseng Contamination

May 21, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government is investigating whether certain ginseng products may have been contaminated with a fungicide.

California-based PharmaPrint discovered residues of the fungicide quintozene in a ginseng batch it bought from a national supplier of the herbal product.

After an independent lab determined the fungicide was above levels allowed in certain foods, PharmaPrint alerted the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday and canceled its contract with supplier Hauser Chemical Research of Colorado.

PharmaPrint does not yet sell ginseng products _ it bought the batch as part of its development of new dietary supplements.

But Hauser sells ginseng to a variety of companies, and the FDA contacted Hauser Wednesday to investigate whether any contaminated ginseng ultimately was sold to consumers.

Based on preliminary information, there ``doesn’t appear to be enough contamination to present an acute risk,″ said FDA spokesman Arthur Whitmore. But ``we are concerned about possible adverse effects of long-term, chronic-type exposure.″

Hauser issued a statement Wednesday saying it had temporarily halted ginseng shipments. ``We believe the levels of quintozene cited in the shipment in question are well below any reasonable risk levels,″ the statement added.

Quintozene is closely related to a fungicide well-known to cause liver damage when eaten in high quantities, said Hyman Zimmerman, a toxicologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. No one knows how much ginseng people ingest in dietary supplements and teas, but ``it makes sense to say it (quintozene) shouldn’t be in there,″ he said.

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