South Korea lifts ban on use of pomegranate seeds and raspberry ketones

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

A bowl of pomegranate seeds. © Getty Images
A bowl of pomegranate seeds. © Getty Images

Related tags South korea Pomegranate ketones MFDS

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has lifted a ban on the use of pomegranate seeds and raspberry ketones in food products.

Pomegranate seeds can now be used in food products, alongside pomegranate fruit. However, the ingredient remains prohibited for use in children’s foods due to the high content of female hormones phytoestrogens. 

Raspberry ketone, on the other hand, could be used as a food flavouring according to food additives standards.

Previously, both ingredients were prohibited from entering the country to protect consumer safety.

“The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety recently held an Overseas Direct Purchase Food Deliberation Committee comprised of relevant experts, including academia, to manage the safety of directly purchased foreign food (overseas direct purchase food) and deliberated and decided on the designation and lifting of raw materials and ingredients blocked from entering the country…

“There has been progress in terms of the suitability of use [of raspberry ketones and pomegranate seeds] and harmonisation of international standards,” the regulator said,​ on the reasons for lifting the ban.

Overseas, both pomegranate seeds and raspberry ketone could be found in dietary supplements.

Raspberry ketone, for instance, has been used in supplements for supporting metabolism, fat burning, and body toning.

In the US, raspberry ketone is recognised as an ingredient for weight loss or for supporting muscle building​, alongside creatine, green tea extract, garcinia Cambodia, and green coffee bean extract.

In the UK, the pure compound of raspberry ketone is regarded as a novel food requiring authorisation prior to marketing.

Human clinical trial evidence on the ingredient, however, remains limited, although a mice study published in European Journal of Pharmacology​ last year has shown that oral supplementation could ameliorate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). There are also concerns on its potential cardiotoxic effects​.

Pomegranate seeds powder, on the other hand, has been shown in an eight-week Iranian study​ to reduce fasting blood glucose, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), cholesterol, and triglycerides in patients with type II diabetes.

New bans

At the same time, the regulator has banned the import of foods containing two other ingredients, namely the over-the-counter antihistamine drug diphenhydramine and the botanical Cascabela thevetia ​– also known as yellow oleander.

It said that these two ingredients have been found in products bought from overseas.

Diphenhydramine, for instance, has been detected in a supplement made in Thailand and is marketed as HONEY Q by the company Cellnager Co. Ltd. The product was also found to contain other pharmaceutical drugs such as sibutramine and benzyl sibutramine.

“Diphenhydramine is an over-the-counter drug ingredient and a type of antihistamine with a strong sedative effect. It is also used as a sleep inducer for temporary insomnia, and overdosing may cause side effects such as rapid heart rate, blurred vision, delirium, and respiratory depression,” ​said the MFDS.

Another supplement, made in Mexico, and marketed as Alipotec Tejocote Root by the company Alipotec, was found to contain Cascabela thevetia.

However, the MFDS warned that this was a poisonous plant that could cause nausea, vomiting and abnormal heartbeat.

“Yellow oleander (Cascabela thevetia) is a poisonous plant mainly grown as an ornamental plant throughout Mexico and Central America, causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, and arrhythmia.

“This plant contains toxic substances in all parts, starting from the roots, and the seeds and leaves are especially highly toxic, so careful use is required,” ​it said.

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