A TV commercial of a cough medicine caught my attention tonight as I settled down on the sofa after a long day. I cringed at the image of a wriggling bacteria on the teaspoon. Eww. Good thing I only give safe, proven cough medicines to my family. As a fussy mom with a Bachelors degree in Food Technology, I am quite aware about adverse effects of bacterial contamination especially in young kids with lower immune systems.
Two years ago, I wrote about the salmonella contamination in a peanut butter brand. Concerns about food safety have grown stronger and more far-reaching. I recall the milk products being distributed in the country that were found to have traces of melamine that can cause bladder or kidney stones. Melamine-tainted milk was blamed for four deaths and kidney stones and other illnesses in 54,000 children in China. Remember the pullout of food products from Taiwan that is suspected to be contaminated with plasticizer di(ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)? How could I forget the candy products with formaldehyde content found to be carcinogenic? There was also a noodle brand that was recalled from the market after the discovery of ““traces of salmonella”.
It is scary to see our children suffer from potential adverse effects from toxic ingredients but bacterial infections as well. It can range from an upset stomach to more serious symptoms such as fever and gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, which in severe cases, could lead to life-threatening dehydration. Safety is about more than keeping our children’s hands away from a whirring food processor blade. It means knowing how to avoid spreading bacteria, safe shopping, and more.
The thing is, bacteria is practically everywhere yet I am in control of things I can do. I know I have control over food products or medicines to purchase. I have control about keeping my house clean and making sure handwashing procedure is followed.
So I can see how herbal cough remedies can become contaminated from bacteria originating from the soil. In addition to the risk of bacterial and viral contamination, herbal remedies may also be contaminated with microbial toxins. How can I be sure that these herbal medicines conform to quality control standards from harvesting and production practices? Am I sure microbial contamination are at acceptable levels set by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration or WHO Guidelines for Quality Standardized Herbal Formulations?
Better to be safe than sorry.
Read more on the safety of medicines in children:
WHO Promoting Safety of Medicines in Children
The World Medicines Situation 2011 Traditional Medicines- Global Situation, Issues and Challenges