The second plenary meeting of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 249 on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) met in The Hague, Switzerland, on May 2-4. Representatives from 14 countries were in attendance, and Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), served as the U.S. Head of Delegation.
ISO, a non-governmental organization, is the world's largest developer and publisher of international standards and is a network of the national standards institutes of 161 countries, one member per country, with a central secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system.
The formation of this TC 249 came about as a result of a request in 2009 by the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) for ISO to address a scope described as "standardization in the field of TCM, in terms of basis, application, administration and the related technical fields, such as terminology, diagnosis and treatment methods, manipulation standards, training standards, quality standards of appliance and equipment, and production and usage standards of Chinese herbal medicines and their test methods, etc."
An initial focus of the meeting was on structural issues. Consideration was therefore given to the formation of several working groups that will be made up of experts in key areas of interest that fall under the TC 249 scope of work. Over the course of the meeting, the committee resolved to establish working groups on raw materials, manufactured products, medical equipment and informatics.
Several proposals for specific areas for standardization were also considered, including projects on ginseng seeds and seedlings, on acupuncture needles, and on a coding system for herbal ingredients, among others. Additional ideas for specific areas of activity will continue to be identified, and any of the members of or liaisons to the TC may offer proposals for consideration.
One issue that is still unresolved is the formal title of the TC. This was provisionally established as "Traditional Chinese Medicine" when the TC was formed in 2009. There has been an ongoing discussion as to whether this term accurately reflects the committee's scope, given the fact that this form of medicine originated in China but has been modified and influenced by other countries, especially other Asian countries, including Japan and Korea. At this point in time the title is still considered to be provisional.
"Even though no conclusion has been reached on a final title, a good sense of cooperation has started to develop among the various participants in TC 249," says AHPA's McGuffin. "From the perspective of the United States, the main focus now will shift to actual work projects, and we will be soliciting ideas for any topic where the creation of an International Standard may serve the herbal industry and herb consumers."
Also included in the U.S. delegation were Jane Wilson of NSF International, liaison for the U.S. technical advisory group; Eric Brand, Blue Poppy Herbs; Christine Chang, KPC Herbs; John Scott, Golden Flower Herbs; and Marilyn Allen, American Acupuncture Council.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the U.S. member body to ISO, and NSF International serves as the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Administrator for TC 249.
About the American Herbal Products Association
The American Herbal Products Association is the national trade association for the voice of the herbal products industry. AHPA is comprised of domestic and foreign companies doing business as growers, processors, manufacturers and marketers of herbs, botanicals and herbal products, including foods, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and non-prescription drugs. Founded in 1982, AHPA's mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products. ahpa.org.