(December 21, 2004) There has been much coverage of the article in the December 15 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) about the heavy metals that have been detected in 14 Ayurvedic herb products manufactured in India. (ABC Latest News on the JAMA article.)
On Dec. 14 ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal was interviewed by Hilary Macgregor of the Los Angeles Times for her Dec. 20 story on this subject.
Blumenthal emphasized that while he believed the JAMA article is an important contribution to the herbal literature, he said that most news articles might be exaggerating the public health implications of the story. Although there is always a need for concern about excessive levels of heavy metals (e.g., arsenic, lead, mercury, etc.) in any conventional food or dietary supplement, Blumenthal emphasized that the products tested and reported in JAMA appeared to be purchased in ethnic Indian grocery stores in the Boston area. The products do not reflect most of the Ayurvedic herbal products found in natural food stores or, more importantly, the general herbal products found at most retail outlets in the U.S.
Further, he stated that with use of proper good manufacturing practices (GMPs), the presence of heavy metal contaminants in raw materials and/or in finished products could be detected at the point of manufacture. He told the LA Times that forthcoming final rules for GMPs that are expected from FDA soon probably will contain a provision that would require all foreign manufacturers of dietary supplements to meet the same level of GMPs for US manufacturers. These rules should help prevent and/or eliminate the contamination of products like those being discussed in JAMA.
Blumenthal also noted that in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, heavy metals like mercury are processed by heating for medicinal use. Thus, at least one of the products in the JAMA article contains a heavy metal (sulfide of mercury) that was included as part of the formulation.