FSA News Item, 23 December 2002
In July 2002, the Food Standards Agency consulted interested parties on possible legislation to ensure that any food products that contain kava kava are removed from the market.
Having carefully considered all the comments received, the Agency has come to the decision that, in the interests of public health, it is necessary to put in place the kava kava in Food (England) Regulations (2002). The regulations ban the sale and the importation into England from outside the UK, of any food consisting of, or containing, kava kava.
Kava kava is a herbal ingredient mostly found in medicinal remedies, but it is also used as an ingredient in food. Over the past year evidence has mounted that, in rare cases, the use of products containing kava kava can cause severe liver damage that may be serious.
To date, the Agency is aware of 70 reports worldwide of suspected adverse reaction to kava kava; four related to fatal cases of liver damage and at least seven in which patients required liver transplants.
The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) has sought advice on kava kava from two groups of independent experts who advise them on the safety of medicines - the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) and the Medicines Commission (MC).
Both found evidence of a risk, in rare cases, of liver damage associated with the use of unlicensed medicines containing kava kava and advised that they should be prohibited in order to protect public health.
The Food Standards Agency's own scientists reviewed the data available to the CSM and MCA and assessed the risks for food uses. The Chair of the Committee on Toxicity was consulted on these risks and agreed that consumption of kava kava may be associated with serious liver damage.
The MCA has created parallel legislation to ensure that kava kava is no longer used in unlicensed herbal medicines except for external use.