The government ordered the recall of a Chinese medicine that uses capsules made on the mainland, after the capsules were found to be tainted by a cancer-causing heavy metal.
Tests by government scientists showed that Germany Wintex Brand Herbal Sep Capsules, produced by the Hong Kong Medicine Manufactory, contained chromium at a level of 84 parts per million. The Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China recommends a level of no more than 2ppm.
Mainland authorities last month confiscated millions of capsules made from industrial, rather than edible, gelatin.
The city's Department of Health also ordered Chinese medicine manufacturers to conduct tests and hand in safety reports on products made on the mainland, Director of Health Dr Lam Ping-yan said yesterday.
'We are liaising with mainland authorities to find the source of the capsule, whether they're from contaminated factories,' Lam said. The manufacturer's normal supplier of capsules was out of stock, so it turned to a manufacturer in Guangzhou.
Users who took the capsules in accordance with dosage instructions were unlikely to ingest enough chromium to cause acute harm, Lam said, citing World Health Organisation standards.
The government ordered the recall on Sunday after being contacted by a media person, who had tested the product. It is now testing eight other medicines, manufactured by the same firm, for chromium.
A company spokesman said it had recalled all capsuled medicines as a precaution, but had found no other problems.
Chronic exposure to chromium can cause cancer. Ingesting a large amount of the metal can lead to respiratory, cardiovascular, stomach, liver and renal damage and potentially death, according to the Department of Health.