The controversial herbal ingredient kava, kava is once again in the news when the UK Food Standards Agency this week announced that it is seeking views on draft regulations that would result in the removal from sale of food products containing or consisting of kava kava.
Kava kava is a herb commonly found in remedies but also in some food products. Evidence has emerged recently that products containing kava kava may have a toxic effect on the liver.
In December 2001, the Agency issued advice to consumers to avoid foods containing kava kava and supported industry's voluntary withdrawal of such foods from sale.
Elsewhere in the world the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore announced this week that it has gone as far as to classify the herbal ingredient as a poison. Anyone caught importing or selling kava-kava products faces a fine up to $10,000 or a jail sentence of up two years.
There have been more than 40 cases of liver poisoning in Germany and Switzerland, allegedly linked to the herb. Of these cases, three people died and six others needed liver transplants.
In pill, powder or liquid form, kava-kava, or Piper methysticum, from the pepper plant, has been used to treat sleeplessness, anxiety, as well as bladder and digestive-tract conditions.