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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #50: July 23, 2002

Japan expects more slimming pill casualties

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Japan expects more slimming pill casualties",1870,133120,00.html?
(by Hau Boon Lai, Japan Bureau) Straits Times


The article reports that certain weight reducing pills produced in China have apparently caused a number of serious liver disorders, some leading to death.

The pills are technically not medicines and they are classified as a type of health food. As such, they are not allowed to assert any specific efficacies but in turn, they are not controlled or regulated to buy and consume. It could have worked if this were all under single jurisdiction, but the internet and free trade have changed the picture. A web page created in another jurisdiction does not necessarily follow the rules imposed in the watcher's home country, which means that often there is no way to confirm or deny the contents of a web page. In addition, the liberalization of trade has effectively removed the barriers for individuals to purchase goods from other countries intended for personal uses. The authorities still retain the powers to inspect and if necessary prevent them from entering the country, but it is virtually impossible and impractical to regulate small quantities of personal imports unless they are specified as illegal stuff such as narcotics.

The incident was truly unfortunate for the victims but it may have been a good lesson for the Japanese to think over again the meaning of self-responsibility. The people who consumed the pills were doing nothing wrong legally, but they should have been aware that since the safety was not endorsed by any responsible body such as the government, they themselves were the ones to bear the potential risk, to be careful.

Out of six billion people living on earth, estimated 830 million are reported to be suffering from malnutrition. There are 27 countries where more than 35% of the population is starving.

Obviously, Japan is not one of them. It used to be though half a century ago, when the whole country was suffering from the aftermath of the war and its people desperate to recover ordinary lives. Rice, staple food of the land, was rationed, but people had to resort to black market to secure enough food for them to barely survive. It was reported sensationally at the time when a law-abiding judge refusing to eat black-market rice had died of starvation.

Times have changed and people are now worried about overeating. Would it not worth reexamining the habit of gorging and then dieting, to save the people at the both extremes of over and malnutrition?

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