WASHINGTON • Mr Albert Yee said the coffee could be found all over at vendor stalls in Malaysian city streets - an instant mix containing Tongkat Ali, a natural ingredient similar to what is used in Viagra to help men with erectile dysfunction. And he wanted a piece of the action.
"There are whole streets of it - like tequila in Mexico," Mr Yee said on Thursday, describing how his one-man import business is now at the centre of a nationwide voluntary recall coordinated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA announced last week that Mr Yee's company, Texas- based Bestherbs Coffee, is voluntarily recalling all lots of the uniquely labelled "New Kopi Jantan Tradisional Natural Herbs Coffee", sold between July 2014 and June last year, because of undeclared ingredients, including the chemical called desmethyl carbodenafil and milk.
"Desmethyl carbodenafil is structurally similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, an FDA-approved prescription drug for erectile dysfunction," the FDA said in a statement.
The FDA is concerned about its potential to lower blood pressure to "dangerous levels", and its interaction with nitrates found in some prescription drugs.
"Men with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease often take nitrates," said the FDA.
It also warned that the coffee's unlisted milk ingredient could be dangerous for people who have allergies or sensitivities to the product.
The recall will be the FDA's latest involving coffee laced with desmethyl carbodenafil.
Stiff Bull Herbal Coffee faced a similar recall last year, as did the sellers of Caverflo Natural Herbal Coffee in May this year. In both cases, the sellers advertised the inclusion of Tongkat Ali, the root of a tree found in Malaysian rainforests.
The producers of Stiff Bull Herbal Coffee claimed that coffee sellers mixed in desmethyl carbodenafil to offset the high cost of the root, raising the possibility that the same thing happened with Mr Yee's coffee.