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Traditional medicines not always the tonic
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Quality officials check electronic scales at a store in the Kaixuanmen Healthy Food Market yesterday.

Consumers should be cautious when choosing precious Chinese tonics, because some products are not what they seem, inspectors said yesterday.

Officials from the Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision carried out a secret inspection at the Kaixuanmen Healthy Food Market in Zhabei District, finding two of the 10 booths they inspected cheated consumers on quantity.

From a booth called Zhenyou Ginseng Store in the market, officials bought 20 grams of pilose antler of young stag, priced at 22.5 yuan (US$3) a gram.

But the actual weight of the product was only 9.24 grams.

Another booth called Shanghai Zhongtian Health Food Store inserted toothpicks into its ginseng, which cost about 43 yuan a gram. Bureau officials bought about five grams of ginseng, but the actual weight of ginseng was only 2.21 grams.

"As such products are usually expensive, consumers will sustain big losses even if the scales are out by just one gram," said Zhang Shaoning, an engineer from the bureau's quantity evaluation center.

Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that checks in late December also found quality problems with a large number of precious Chinese tonics sold in small stores and stalls in tonic markets.

The SFDA conducted a series of checks on precious and expensive tonics between December 20 and 26. After checking 1,700 ginsengs and more than 1,900 grams of dongchongxiacao, or cordyceps, officials discovered 186 batches with suspected quality problems.

"A high percentage of the problems involved disguising fake dongchongxiacao with no medical use as the real thing," said Tang Minghao, vice director of Shanghai Food and Drug Administration.

Tang said some sellers had mixed poor-quality wild ginseng with the higher quality product to cheat customers.

(Shanghai Daily January 17, 2008)

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