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Seeds in Chinese herbal tea may cause illness

Privileged Statement

8 May 2008

Seeds in Chinese herbal tea may cause illness

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) is warning people not to consume in any way seeds that may be found in a Chinese herbal tea, that is made from the plant Abrus Cantoniensis. This product is sold in retail packs under various brand names such as Heng Ming through Asian supermarkets and also sold by Eastern medicine outlets.

This product is also known as Canton Love Pea or Herba Abri. NZFSA is advising anyone who has the product not to consume it and to return it to the place of purchase.

This plant product is not permitted to be sold as a food or food ingredient under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. It is believed that the seeds and possibly the seed pods are toxic.

The product is now being withdrawn from sale and recalled by the importer. NZFSA is working with Customs, Public Health Units and Medsafe to identify any other importers or retail outlets, and GPs are being alerted of the potential to cause illness.

Anyone who has experienced gastro-intestinal illnesses after consuming the Abrus Cantonienis based herbal tea or medicine products should immediately consult a doctor.


This statement is made under section 37 of the Food Act 1981 by the Director (Compliance and Investigation), NZFSA under delegated authority. It is protected by qualified privilege.

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