AHPA Challenges 'Illegal Listing' of Areca Nut on California Proposition 65

(Silver Spring, MD, November 23, 2005) -- The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) filed extensive comments on November 21, 2005, to provide input on a proposal by the State of California to list areca nut (the seed of Areca catechu) and betel quid as chemicals known by the State to cause cancer. AHPA’s comments requested that any such listing by the State be qualified so that it would be applicable only to areca seed (not husk) products used for prolonged chewing. AHPA also requested, however, that the proposal to list these substances be withdrawn as the State’s described basis for the proposed listings is illegal.

Listing of these two substances was proposed by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) on October 21, 2005. OEHHA stated in its October notice that its proposal was in response to recent findings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in which the health consequences of chewing of areca nut and betel quid (usually consisting of areca nut, slaked lime, and other optional ingredients wrapped in a leaf of Piper betle) were examined. OEHHA further stated that its listing process was in conformity with a specific part of State law identified as Labor Code section 6382(b)(1) and (d), a process that would avoid review by the State’s own scientific panel and deny any opportunity for a public meeting or meaningful public input.

Areca seed and husk are herbal ingredients used somewhat extensively in traditional herbal products in India and Asia. AHPA’s initial review of OEHHA’s proposal was focused on differentiating the uses of areca seed in dietary supplement and traditional herbal products, all of which are consumed by swallowing, and betel quid and other substances that contain areca seed that are consumed by prolonged chewing. AHPA noted in its comments that all of the human usage data examined by IARC, without exception, was limited to the health consequences of prolonged chewing of products containing areca seed. AHPA therefore requested that, should OEHHA go forward with its listing, it do so with clearly stated qualifications to limit the listing to exclude areca husk and to include only products intended for chewing.

In challenging the legal basis for the listing, AHPA noted that the purported Labor Code procedure identified by OEHHA would have the effect of “unlawfully delegat[ing] the inherently governmental powers and duties of OEHHA to a small group of private individuals selected by a quasi-governmental international organization.” AHPA also pointed out that IARC itself has stated that their evaluations “represent only one part of the body of information on which regulatory measures may be based,” and so “no recommendation is given with regard to regulation or legislation, which are the responsibility of individual governments and/or other international organizations.”

More importantly, AHPA’s comments cited case law that has expressly limited the use of the Labor Code mechanism cited by OEHHA to the establishment of the original list of chemicals compiled by the State in 1987. AHPA’s comments therefore noted, “OEHHA therefore may not list areca nut and betel quid through the purported Labor Code mechanism.”

A copy of AHPA’s comments to OEHHA is available at http://www.ahpa.org/05_1121_AHPAComments_Areca.pdf.


The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is the national trade association and voice of the herbal products industry, the only trade association devoted solely to herbal issues. AHPA is the recognized leader in representing the responsible center of the botanical trade, and is comprised of the finest growers, processors, manufacturers and marketers of herbal products. AHPA’s mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products. AHPA committees generate self-regulations to ensure the highest level of responsibility with respect to the way herbs are manufactured, labeled and sold. Website: www.ahpa.org

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