FDA Issues Star Anise Tea Advisory

September 11, 2003

2 Min Read
FDA Issues Star Anise Tea Advisory

WASHINGTON--The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an advisory Sept. 10 warning consumers against drinking teas containing star anise. Reportedly, these teas have caused illness in approximately 40 individuals, including 15 infants, over the last two years. Symptoms ranged from seizures and vomiting to jitteriness and rapid eye movement.

FDA is still investigating which type of star anise was used in the products. The star anise considered by the agency as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) is the Chinese variety (Illicium verum); however, the agency is concerned the products in question contained the Japanese variety (Illicium anisatum), which is toxic and used for decorative purposes only.

When in dried or processed form, Japanese and Chinese star anise cannot be distinguished from one another through visual examination alone. As a result, FDA is evaluating chemical analytical methods that would differentiate between the two varieties. Until FDA has identified the type of star anise that was associated with these cases, the agency is issuing the advisory

FDA was notified of the illnesses after a resident physician at Miami Children's Hospital conducted a record review of star anise tea and illness; at the time, he was treating an infant with seizures who had been consuming star anise-containing tea, a folk remedy for colic.

FDA reported all affected individuals, including infants, recovered from their ailments without complications. The agency has since learned of similar reports from Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and Washington, in addition to France, Spain and The Netherlands.

The agency's warning extends only to the tea, and not to spices or dietary supplements containing the botanical. "The agency made no mention of dietary supplements containing star anise," the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) said in a statement it was informed that none of the reported cases have been associated with dietary supplements. In addition, while FDA did not identify the part of the plant that was used in the brewed teas, AHPA said at least some of the reported cases were associated with the plant's flowers, whereas it is generally the dehydrated fruit of star anise that is found in commerce.

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