FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2010
Dan Ragan, director
NCDA&CS Food and Drug Protection Division
NCDA&CS issues consumer alert about folk remedy Nzu
RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is warning consumers, especially pregnant or breastfeeding women, to avoid a folk remedy called “Nzu” or “Calabash clay” because of potential health risks from lead and arsenic.
Nzu, generally resembling a large pellet or ball of clay, is also called Calabash clay, Calabar stone, Mabele, Argile and LaCraie. It is often packaged in plastic bags with a handwritten label identifying it as “Nzu.”
Nzu is consumed as a traditional remedy for morning sickness. It has been found in African specialty stores, and may also be sold in Asian specialty stores.
Environmental health officials obtained a sample of Nzu from a store in Guilford County and sent it to the state public health laboratory for analysis. The results showed the presence of lead and arsenic in the product.
The NCDA&CS Food and Drug Protection Division is looking for the product in stores across the state to obtain additional samples for analysis.
Health officials in Texas issued a similar warning about Nzu in December.
Lead exposure can result in a number of harmful effects, including impaired growth, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and death. A developing child is particularly at risk of effects on the brain and nervous system. Arsenic is a human poison, and excessive long-term exposure to it has been associated with a range of health effects, including cancers, eye irritation, skin lesions and nervous system effects.
Anyone who has been ingesting Nzu should immediately stop using this product and contact their health care provider.