Natural Foods Merchandiser

United Kingdom Issues Kava Ban

The U.K.-based Medicines Control Agency has joined a growing list of authorities to ban kava.

The ban, which went into effect in January, followed a public consultation period after which the Committee on Safety of Medicines and the Medicines Commission found evidence linking kava to cases of liver toxicity. The MCA noted 70 worldwide reports of adverse liver reactions, including four in the United Kingdom.

Other countries to have banned kava include Germany (where it is available by prescription only), Canada, Singapore (where it is classified as a poison), Australia and France. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating the herb after issuing an advisory to consumers and health care professionals in March 2002. (See "Industry Associations Support FDA's Kava Advisory," NFM, May 2002.)

The MCA stated: "Investigations have been unable to identify factors that would predict which individuals are at risk of adverse reactions to kava kava and the mechanism of liver toxicity related to kava kava remains unknown."

Alasdair Breckenridge, Chairman of the CSM, hinted the ban would not necessarily be final. "A prohibition on safety grounds can be reviewed at any time if new evidence emerges," he said.

Shane Starling is a contributing writer for Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 2/p. 10

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