KCA denies Endotech’s safety claims

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KCA denies Endotech’s safety claims

The standoff between the consumer protection agency and a biotech company that added a toxic herb to its supplements intensified on Monday, as the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA) accused Natural Endotech of having used the herb long before the company claims to have begun including it in products.

The announcement followed the report last month that 21 of its herbal pharmaceutical products purported to include Cynanchum wilfordii instead used Cynanchum auriculatum Royal, which is banned by the government from use in consumable products.

The agency said that it inspected 32 products made by the company and 21 included the potentially damaging substance.

The embattled company initially claimed that the products the KCA tested never actually made it onto the market.

“Consumers can continue to use our products safely because all the products currently in circulation were produced before March,” the company said in a statement on April 30.

“The ingredients that were in our warehouse as of Dec. 17 were confirmed safe by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety,” the company said.

The KCA denied the company’s claims on Monday, saying that the earlier products also contained the controversial ingredient and threatened to further penalize Natural Endotech.

“Natural Endotech is trying to play down the damages that consumers have suffered,” said the KCA in a statement.

“The ingredients that were stored on Dec. 17 also had Cynanchum auriculatum Royal because they were supplied by the same manufacturer,” the agency said.

The regulator plans to recall the products currently in circulation and strengthen penalties against the company.

A source from the KCA also indicated that one of employees from Natural Endotech begged the agency to not release the findings.

“When Korea Consumer Agency denied their request, they filed a lawsuit against us which was really regrettable,” the source said.

Last month, Natural Endotech lodged a defamation suit against the agency’s head and another employee.

The controversy also exposed the fragility of Korea’s tech-heavy Kosdaq market.

When the accusation first emerged on April 22, the entire Kosdaq was pulled down and lost more than 6 trillion won ($5.6 billion) within several days.

Shares of Natural Endotech further plummeted on Monday to 29,000 won, down 14.96 percent.

BY PARK EUN-JEE, LEE SO-AH [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]
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