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BgVV warns against products containing kava kava

25/2002, 25.10.2002

Liver damage caused by consumption cannot be ruled out

According to information from the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV), products are being distributed via the Internet as foods or food supplements which contain kava kava or kava kava extracts. After taking medicinal products containing kava kava, patients suffered severe inflammation of the liver and permanent liver damage. As it is likely that health damage of this nature will also occur after eating foods containing kava kava, BgVV is explicitly warning consumers against the longer-term consumption of products of this kind.

Kava kava (Piper methysticum) is a pepper plant species and comes from the South Pacific islands. Substances in the kava kava root are said to be relaxing and anxiolytic. Roots or extracts of the plant were mainly used in Germany in herbal remedies.

In June 2002 the Federal Institute for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices revoked the marketing authorisation for all medicinal products containing kava kava after patients who had taken medicines of this kind for longer periods, suffered what was, in some cases, severe damage to their health. It is suspected that this damage can be attributed to ingredients in the kava kava root. The sole exemption from the revocation are homeopathic medicinal products which only contain very low levels of kava kava.

The British Food Standards Agency (FSA) is also warning against consuming kava kava products and has called on commerce to remove all kava kava products from the market which are distributed as foods or food supplements.

In the opinion of BgVV products of this kind should not be marketed as foods in Germany.

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