Some people believe that they contain the dried flesh of dead babies or aborted fetuses, others say just placental tissue. Chinese authorities claim they don’t exist, but so-called “human flesh pills” were first seized by authorities in South Korea last August. According to CNN, some 35 cases (approximately 17,000 pills) have been found by customs officials in the months since then.
Reuters reports that Chinese workers and South Korean cancer patients have been using the supplements for stamina and to restore well-being. They are believed to come from hospitals in China’s northeast and first came to light in 2011. On August 6, a South Korean TV documentary revealed that customs agents had confiscated and tested pills from China with shocking results. Laboratory tests revealed that the substance inside was “99.7 percent identical with humans.”
Consumption of human placenta has long been a part of traditional Chinese medicine, usually by nursing mothers to increase their strength after childbirth. Some trendy western mothers have recently taken to finding ways to integrate their baby’s placenta into their diet.
Health officials warn, however that the supplements are full of bacteria, including so-called “super bacteria” like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a strain of staph infection that does not respond to many antibiotics. These and other potential impurities pose a serious health risk to consumers.
China’s government has repeatedly denied that the pills exist. Chinese Health Ministry spokesman Deng Haihua told reporters that the government’s investigation in the matter is ongoing. He said that ministry began to investigate the matter as soon as questions were raised in 2011, but that they had been unable to find any such capsules in the country.
Watch this video from Tuesday, May 8, embedded via Reuters, below: