A POPULAR Eu Yan Sang medicinal powder was flagged by the American authorities for lead poisoning risks last week, but the version of the product sold in Singapore, which is from a different manufacturer, is safe for consumption, said the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) here.
The United States permits far lower lead levels than Singapore and Hong Kong do.
The Eu Yan Sang Bo Ying Compound manufactured by Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong) was featured in a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alert last Friday for containing excessive lead. It is used to treat phlegm, vomiting, fevers, colds and coughs in young children.
"FDA learnt of this risk from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene after the product was tested and found to contain high levels of lead," the alert said.
"FDA has received one adverse event report of lead poisoning in an 18-month-old child who was given this product."
Exposure to lead can cause serious damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and immune system, noted FDA.
In children, chronic exposure, even at low levels, is associated with reduced IQ and behavioural difficulties.
Worried customers made some 30 inquiries here to Eu Yan Sang, a traditional Chinese medicine retailer listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX). Even investors were unnerved, as Eu Yan Sang fell four cents on Monday and slid another two cents to 79 cents in yesterday's trading.
The company clarified on SGX that all its products sold in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore are safe.
The version sold in Singapore is manufactured by Malaysia's Weng Li and was retested following FDA's alert, said HSA. It was found to have lead levels "within the acceptable limits of international and regional guidelines for herbal medicines".
Mr Richard Eu, group chief executive officer of Eu Yan Sang International, said yesterday that all authorised products have lead content levels "well below" the limits of the countries they are distributed in.
The compound in the FDA alert was a Hong Kong version of Bo Ying - the company's best selling product - which has never been authorised for export, as different countries have varying requirements for food products, Mr Eu said.
He added that the Hong Kong product in question is deemed perfectly safe for consumption in Hong Kong.
Mr Eu said the US authorities did not clarify if the product they flagged came from an authorised, legitimate batch, or if it had been found to be the direct cause of the child's lead poisoning.