SEOUL, June 28 (Korea Bizwire) – North Korea food supplements sold abroad are contaminated with excessive levels of heavy metals, a source familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
The announcement comes as South Korean health authorities collected 13 types of food supplements that are currently being circulated abroad and found that of the samples of North Korean food supplements that 10 product types have beyond permitted levels of heavy metal substances such as mercury and lead, according to the insider who declined to be identified.
The levels found were upwards to 200,000 times higher than permissible levels for food, which can lead to serious health problems, he said
It is not the first time that North Korea’s food supplement products were found to have hazardous ingredients. In 2014, Vietnamese health authorities recalled boxes of the supplement named “Angung Uhwang Hwan” and pulled them off shelves, citing health risks.
North Korea has claimed that the product is effective in helping treat stomach and blood pressure problems.
The source then said that North Korea is believed to export food supplements mainly to China and some Southeast Asian countries as the products guarantee high margins.
“The sale of dietary supplements is one of the ways North Korea earns dollars, along with the dispatch of workers to foreign countries,” he said.
Another North Korean watcher said Pyongyang has mobilized its overseas workers to sell the dietary supplements, pointing out many are sold at North Korea-run restaurants in foreign countries.
The North’s authorities are believed to be deeply involved in the production of food supplements in a bid to secure hard currency, it said.
In April 2011, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited the Kanggye Koryo Medicine Factory which mainly produced dietary supplements.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as saying that all the “Koryo medicines produced by the factory should be good to take and are highly efficacious.”