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China allows cultivated ginseng in food

(Xinhua)

08:41, September 06, 2012

CHANGCHUN, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- China's Ministry of Health has allowed cultivated ginseng to be used in food products across the nation, a move seen as a good opportunity for the development of the country's ginseng industry.

"Many ginseng growers are expected to benefit from the new policy that will help China's ginseng industry to develop further and enhance its international competitiveness," said Zhang Lianxue, a ginseng expert at Jilin Agricultural University, on the International Conference on Ginseng held Wednesday in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province.

Dubbed the "king of herbs," ginseng is considered to be nutritious and to have great medical value in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It has been used as a tonic in TCM for over 3,000 years.

Ginseng is mainly grown in eastern Asia. Considered the world's largest ginseng production base, ginseng production on Changbai Mountain in Jilin accounts for 85 percent of China's production and 70 percent of the world's total output.

Historical records show that China has a 1,660-year history of cultivating ginseng. More than 98 percent of ginseng in Jilin is currently cultivated, not grown in the wild.

Though China's health authority had previously restricted the use of the plant to medicines only, people used to use ginseng as an ingredient in chicken, porridge and soup recipes or soaked it in liquor.

In 2009, the 32nd conference of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) approved the international standard of ginseng-derived food products and allowed planted ginseng to be put into food.

The Ministry of Health chose Jilin as a pilot location for adding cultivated ginseng to food products in March 2011.

It has been proven that ginseng is less toxic than garlic, said Zhang Hui, an official with the ginseng and antler office of the Jilin provincial government, on the conference.

Wang Zhihong, president of the Changchun University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said the policy recognizing ginseng as a food would likely increase ginseng cultivation as well as research and development on ginseng products.

More and more enterprises have sensed business opportunities and started to invest in the ginseng industry in Jilin since the province was made the pilot location for adding ginseng to food products.` Food products including cookies, jam, coffee and candies made with ginseng can currently be found in markets in Jilin.

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