Herb suspected as tea leaves tots sick
United States consumers have been warned not to drink teas brewed from the herb star anise, following reports of seizures in 15 babies.
The US Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating whether there had been a mix-up between Chinese star anise, a safe and popular spice, and Japanese star anise, a poison. In dried and ground-up form the leaves look identical.
Star anise tea is sometimes used as a folk remedy for infants with colic, but the FDA said it should not be brewed until the seizure question is resolved. The agency is investigating whether tea importers or consumers got the herbs mixed up.
A Miami doctor alerted the FDA after a spate of infants suffered seizures.
When the FDA alerted poison control centres it discovered about 40 reports of seizures among tea drinkers - adults and children - in recent years.
Similar outbreaks occurred in Europe several years ago, prompting controls to make sure only safe Chinese star anise was imported for food.
The FDA is about to monitor imports to see if the toxic Japanese form has been inappropriately labelled as food
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