Police in southern China have shut down nearly a dozen herbal tea shops for adding Western drugs to their products.
In a statement Monday, the public security bureau in Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong, said 11 shops in the city’s Panyu District were found to have added ingredients such as acetaminophen, antihistamines, and antibiotics to their herbal tea products, in violation of China’s food safety law.
Local police collected 40 samples from tea shops in the district and found that 15 contained Western pharmaceutical ingredients. Police subsequently shut down the shops, apprehended 15 individuals, and seized ingredients, according to the statement.
Police officers investigate a tea shop that was found to be adding unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients to its “cooling tea” product in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, 2020. From the Guangzhou police’s public WeChat account
The herbal beverage liang cha, or “cooling tea” in Chinese, is a summer staple in southern China, as it’s believed to counter the body’s “internal heat.” In 2006, the drink was recognized as one of China’s intangible cultural heritages.
Guangzhou police noted in their statement that the drink, which typically contains traditional Chinese medicine ingredients, is regulated as a food product rather than a medicinal product, and as such cannot contain pharmaceutical ingredients. In China, there’s often a blurred line in determining whether goods containing TCM ingredients constitute “medicines” or “health products,” which are subject to different regulations.
In 2018, a popular Chinese toothpaste brand, Yunnan Baiyao, was accused of false advertising and adding Western prescription drugs to its products. Two medical workers said the product did not use TCM ingredients to prevent bleeding gums, as the brand claimed, but rather tranexamic acid, which is used to stanch bleeding during surgeries and tooth extractions.
And last July, a children’s hospital in the eastern Jiangxi province suspended one of its TCM treatments, sanfutie, after dozens of children complained of uncomfortable side effects such as blisters, itchiness, and burns.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: A woman sits behind the counter of a local tea shop in Foshan, Guangdong province, Aug. 10, 2014. People Visual)