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Japanese Star Anise Advisory

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US advises people not to drink star anise teas

Reuters, 09.10.03, 8:18 PM ET





WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday advised people to avoid teas containing star anise, a flavoring ingredient that has been linked to illnesses in the United States and Europe.


Over the last two years, 40 people, including some 15 children, have had problems ranging from seizures, to vomiting and jitteriness, the FDA said in a statement. All recovered without complications.


Teas brewed with star anise are popularly believed to help infants with colic, though such claims are not made on the labels, said the FDA, adding it was unaware of scientific evidence to support any benefits from drinking such teas.


"Given that fact, consumers should not use them or give them to infants and children," the agency said in an advisory.


The FDA was alerted by Florida authorities after an infant who ingested tea with star anise was treated for seizures at Miami Children's Hospital.


The FDA has since learned of similar reports from other states, including Illinois, New Jersey and Texas, as well as the Netherlands, France and Spain.


The FDA is concerned that Chinese star anise, which it generally recognizes as safe when used as a spice or flavoring, may contain Japanese star anise, which is believed in many countries to be toxic and should be used only as a decoration.


Since Japanese star anise in its dried or processed form cannot be distinguished from the Chinese type by looking at it, the FDA said it is evaluating chemical analysis methods and would monitor imports entering the United States.


The agency has so far been unable to determine whether the the star anise linked to the illnesses was the Japanese version or a mixture of both.


Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service

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