Banned slimming pills in SA

2012-11-19 00:00

A POTENTIALLY carcinogenic laxative has been found in supposedly 100% natural Chinese slimming preparation widely available across South Africa.

The substance is phenolphthalein, which was withdrawn from the market more than 10 years ago after studies showed it caused cancerous tumours in mice and rats.

Tests at the University of Pretoria forensic toxicology laboratory showed that there is phenolphthalein and sibutramine in Lean Genie’s JS Slim-slimming capsules, bought in Gauteng and in Lifestyle Tradelink’s Fruits & Vegetables capsules in the Western Cape.

The finding follows investigations over the past few weeks by sister paper Beeld into the Chinese Kangmei slimming capsules and products commonly sold with them.

Four containers of Kangmei, from Lean Genie in Johannesburg, Lifestyle Tradelink in the Western Cape, in Polokwane and a Chinese shop, have so far tested positive for sibutramine.

This is a schedule five drug that was withdrawn from the market in 2010 because it is potentially dangerous to the heart. Consumers who buy Kangmei and JS together with Fruits & Vegetables capsules in so-called combo packs, run the risk of ingesting a double dose of sibutramine and/or phenolphthalein.

Retailers often tried to sell the products together during Beeld’s investigation, claiming the “fibre” and “100% vegetable and fruit extract” in the Fruits & Vegetables capsules increases the effect of the other preparations. However, they warn that people with heart problems, the elderly and pregnant women should avoid this supposedly “100% fruit and vegetable” product.

Andy Gray, a senior lecturer at the Nelson Mandela medical school at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said phenolphthalein was withdrawn from over-the-counter sale in the U.S. in 1999, followed shortly afterwards by the SA Medicines Control Council.

According to the 12th U.S. report on carcinogens, rats and mice developed malignant tumours when they were fed phenolphthalein. Laboratory tests also showed genetic damage to hamster cells exposed to the chemical, but the danger has not been proved in human studies.

Shirley Hanson of Lean Genie said she obtained JS capsules from Jin Song Trading. That company has not reacted to media inquiries.

Corné and Nolene Botha of LifeStyle Tradelink in Brackenfell in the Western Cape agreed to respond to queries about the source of their products, but had not done so by the time of going to press.

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