- Language Tips
Wang Hai, a famous consumer-rights advocate, took Yunan Baiyao Group, a traditional Chinese medicine maker, to court in Beijing for violating consumers' rights to know its medicines’ ingredients, the Beijing-based The Mirror newspaper reported on March 21.
Wang believes that the company violated the law when it did not reveal the ingredients of its products. The company claims it is protecting commercial secrets.
Since the 1950s, the ingredients of Yunnan Baiyao products, which are widely used in China to treat traumatic injuries, have been classified as a national secret, so the products usually don’t display their ingredients.
But consumers found that the products sold abroad do display the ingredients.
In addition, Hong Kong health authorities in early February claimed they found undeclared aconitum alkaloids in the company’s products. The authorities ordered a recall and suggested that city residents avoid those products.
Aconitum alkaloids can numb the sensation of pain. They are also believed to enhance blood circulation and perspiration.
In traditional Chinese medicine, aconitum is used in small doses to treat joint pains and headaches. However, overdosing on aconitum alkaloids causes numbness and even death.
After the recall in Hong Kong, the company and the mainland’s food and drug supervision authority each issued online statements saying that the amount of aconitum alkaloids in the products is so small that there is little toxicity.
The company also said it hasn’t received adverse reports from consumers.
But the newspaper reported three court cases involving consumers suing the company for the Yunnan Baiyao products that caused harm and even a death in 2009 and 2010.
According to the newspaper, a woman used the product during her period, and her menstrual bleeding then lasted for a month. Another woman had a heart attack after using the product, though the courts believed they cannot prove the cause-and-effect relationship between using Yunnan Baiyao products and the symptoms.
In the third case, a man died after taking Yunnan Baiyao products during hospitalization. The court believed the death was caused by an overdose.
Wang Hai was quoted as saying that domestic consumers deserve to know as much as foreign consumers do about Yunnan Baiyao products’ ingredients and potential risks.