China has banned herbal tea and other foods from its supermarkets and restaurants after it became the first country to link the consumption of tea and the growth of certain cancers.
The ban is the latest in a string of moves by China to crack down on its booming tea industry and has drawn condemnation from the United States and other countries.
China’s health ministry announced the ban on Monday, citing health risks associated with tea and related herbal products.
“The consumption of herbal tea may cause cancer and other diseases.
The health of the whole people is at stake,” it said in a statement.
Chinese officials say the ban is needed to combat the rising incidence of cancer.
The Food and Drug Administration in the US has already banned some herbal products, including teas and herbal medicine, saying they are “generally considered to be unsafe”.
“The ban does not cover any herbal products that are not approved for use in the United Kingdom or the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” the FDA said in its latest advisory, published on Tuesday.
The FDA has not announced whether it will take similar action in China.
In an email to Al Jazeera, the US ambassador to China, Jennifer Mascaro, said China was taking “a long-term approach to tackling the use of herbal medicines and supplements and will take appropriate measures when necessary”.
“We are concerned that herbal products can have a significant impact on people’s health, particularly when they are sold in large quantities in the retail food industry,” she wrote.
She also said the US was “deeply concerned” by the reports of Chinese health officials linking the consumption and growth of various cancers.
“We hope that our Chinese counterparts will continue to use this information to help them tackle the rising trend of cancer and to ensure the protection of people’s healthcare,” Mascarpo wrote.
Herbal products and dietary supplements have also been linked to other cancers, including lung, prostate and stomach cancers.
A new study by researchers at Harvard University found that consumption of the Chinese herbal tea Ginkgo biloba, which contains a substance known as ginkgo flavonoid, could increase the risk of lung cancer by as much as 22%.
The herb can also be used as a treatment for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Herb products also have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and a variety of other diseases, according to the World Health Organization.
In recent years, there have been several reports of cancer linked to tea.
In 2016, the UK’s Cancer Research UK found that herbal tea consumption increased the risk for colorectal cancer by 11% in men.
In 2014, the British government banned the sale of tea for a year after scientists at King’s College London reported links between the consumption, consumption and cultivation of ginkgos and the development of colorecy.
Last year, the Chinese health ministry banned the use and sale of some herbal teas, including tea with a strong tea flavour, and a product containing a ginkga fruit called Ginkgogu.
The ministry has since said that the ban will last for five years.
Al Jazeera’s Sarah Rainsford, reporting from Beijing, said the Chinese ban was the latest move in a series of actions taken by Beijing.
“China has taken a long-tail approach to curbing consumption of many herbal products and supplements, particularly herbal tea,” she said.
“In the case of Ginkga, there is already a ban in China and there is a further step in the future that is being taken in the Chinese provinces of Hubei and Henan.”
And the ban in Henan has already been put in place.
So this move will probably only take effect for a few months.
But it is still a long and hard road to go down.
“We need to do everything to make sure that these things are safe and effective for people, she said, adding that we need to ensure that they are available to all Chinese people and are not just consumed by the elite.