LEGISLATORS yesterday called for a list to be drawn up immediately of dangerous herbs used in Chinese medicine, because of fears people were ignorant of their effects. The Government has instead proposed that such a list be drawn up by the first Chinese medicine committee, to be formed following publication of the long-awaited report on monitoring of Chinese medicine. The report was published yesterday after being endorsed by the Executive Council. It was drawn up over five years by a group comprising government officials and academics, who recommended a list of practitioners which could lead to eventual registration, and that importers, herbalists and medicine producers be licensed. The Health Department admitted it might be several years before a list of registered traditional medicine doctors was available to the public. A preparatory committee would be set up by next March to advise on legislation, leading to a statutory body, said Secretary for Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching. That committee would comprise mainly members of the profession as the aim was self-regulation, she said. But in response to legislators' concerns, she said some government officials and consumer groups could also be represented. Department officials said they would look into the call from health care legislator Michael Ho Man-ka for a list of the 50 most dangerous herbs to be immediately made available for public reference. 'It shouldn't wait until the establishment of the committee. The procedure has to be speeded up . . . as in the past there were cases where people died or were seriously injured after being prescribed potent herbs,' Mr Ho said. But Mrs Fok would not say when she expected the statutory body to be formed or when registration might start. 'I think it would be premature to set a timetable at this stage. We have not had any experience, this centuries-old profession has not been regulated and only [after the committee has started] will we have an idea of the complexity of this task.' The preparatory committee would have to consult all members of the profession on, for instance, how much training or experience doctors would need before they could be registered. Criteria suggested had ranged from five years' experience irrespective of training, to 20 years, certain recognised qualifications or success in an exam set by the monitoring body. 'I would not wish to impose an unrealistic deadline,' Mrs Fok said. She also hoped that the Chinese doctors would set up their own checking body, like the Medical Council for Western doctors. The working party made 19 recommendations, including that: Provision be made for veteran practitioners with no formal qualifications - 'grandfathers' - to be registered; The statutory body consider restricting sale of the most potent herbs only to people with prescriptions from registered practitioners; Manufacturing plants be issued with annual licences after considerations including hygiene and quality standards of the premises; Importers of raw medicines be licensed and their imports of toxic herbs registered; Proprietary medicines be licensed and carry certificates of registration from their place of origin; and, Training courses be increased at the universities, with a full-time central training school as a long-term objective. Training courses are presently offered at the Chinese University and the Hong Kong University. The working party also called for better salaries and training for dispensers. Eventual registration should be considered and their status and working conditions improved to draw in new blood, said Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare Shelley Lau Lee Lai-kuen.