Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog wants to test the effectiveness of herbal medicine and Chinese medicine, including one that claims to increase male libido, although its chief admits the lack of expertise poses difficulties.
In a radio interview with RTHK, Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said she had always wanted to test the effectiveness of proprietary Chinese medicines.
“Although we are able to test whether they contain heavy metals or other harmful substances, it is difficult to test the effectiveness (of drugs),” she said.
“Due to the differences between Chinese medicine and Western medicine, there are not enough resources and expertise (on the board) to handle it at this time.”
But Wong said she didn’t give up. She pointed out that people were leaving messages suggesting the council try ‘maca’ – a kind of herbal medicine commonly used by men to increase their libido. She stressed that the council had not “forgotten” the suggestions and would try to find ways to solve the problem despite the testing difficulties.
The council received 24,615 complaints in 2019. The number rose to 30,935 in 2020 before dropping to 27,382 last year.
Wong said the pandemic has made the watchdog even busier than before. The delayed delivery of masks ordered online, cancellations of leisure classes and travel disputes after borders closed have sparked a wave of complaints.
“At the start of the epidemic (in 2020), the council adopted an AB team arrangement and continued to monitor the shortage of anti-epidemic supplies,” Wong said. “We ended up seeing that there was enough supply in Hong Kong, only that stores didn’t have enough time to replenish their stock.”
She added that the council must also inspect the effectiveness of alcohol-based sanitisers, masks and sterilizers when some labs moved to mandatory Covid-19 testing.
She said it was more difficult for the council to resolve complaints involving the beauty and fitness industries, while it is easier to deal with complaints related to banks: “Overall, around 66% complaints could be successfully resolved.
“However, reaching consensus with traders is more difficult than before as they face operating challenges amid the pandemic.”
Wong said there hasn’t been a drop in beauty and fitness complaints amid the pandemic as stores continue to force customers into unscrupulous large-dollar contracts.
The council has proposed a mandatory cooling-off period of at least seven days in recent years targeting these industries. A public consultation was conducted, but the legislation was delayed due to social unrest and the pandemic.
The council also recently discovered that “lobster dumplings” sold in local markets did not contain lobster and that some meatballs did not contain the ingredients listed in their name: “Lobster dumplings do not contain genes from shellfish, and the ingredients for cuttlefish balls are actually squid.
She said it’s important to be specific and said the food should be named squid ball if it contains squid instead of cuttlefish.
She said many citizens do not eat pork due to their religious beliefs. Therefore, transparency should be a basic requirement for goods: “False or misleading descriptions are in breach of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, and the board has referred the report to customs.”
She also continued to advocate regulation of overseas property sales, although the government was reluctant to legislate.
There are such laws in overseas countries and Hong Kong should follow suit, she said.