(LONDON) — The dried flesh of dead infants appears to be the not-so-secret ingredient in a health supplement that is reportedly being smuggled out of China.
The performance-enhancement pills, touted for increasing vitality and sex drive, have been found in the luggage of tourists and in international mail, according to South Korean authorities.
They said they had confiscated nearly 17,500 of the human flesh capsules since last August, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
South Korean authorities warned that the pills could be dangerous to human health.
“This is gross, as well as creepy,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who consults regularly with the Centers for Disease Control.
“We have no idea how this material is processed and under what circumstances,” he said. “If it’s not done in a hygienic fashion to make assurances infections are excluded, it could contain viruses as well as bacteria.”
The dried human tissue may also not have been sterilized, according to Schaffner. “It’s an extremely dubious for an operation like this with the potential for infection complications.”
It is not known whether these pills made of human flesh have appeared in the United States.
Customs officials in South Korea are beefing up efforts to stop the alleged smuggling, apparently by ethnic Koreans living in northern Chinese cities.
Chinese folklore promotes the belief that a human fetus can cure disease and help with circulation and sexual performance.
Schaffner said the pills could transmit the drug-resistant bacteria MRSA that could be on the skin of a fetus. “If these fetuses went through the birth canal, they can quickly pick up bacteria,” he said.
Because the birth canal is in close proximity to the rectum, other bacteria like e coli, salmonella and shigella could be present.
“We know that in China the occurrence of hepatitis B, the viral infection, is exceedingly high,” said Schaffner. “That is also of concern.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio