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Snow leopard, dog, heavy metals: Two in three natural supplements contain something they shouldn’t

Two in three natural supplements available on Australian shelves contain something they shouldn’t, according to new research.

Researchers from Curtain University, Murdoch University and the University of Adelaide, tested 220 supplements as part of a major research project.

Animal DNA, dangerous levels of heavy metals, and undeclared prescription medicines were among the contaminants found in the supplements tested.

Claire Hoban, researcher at the University of Adelaide, said a lack of industry regulation is to blame.

“Although good manufacturing processes are to be adhered to … It’s obvious that they aren’t always upheld,” she told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

Animal DNA from endangered snow leopards, frogs, mice, dogs, goats and bats was found in supplements tested by the researchers.

Other supplements were found to contain undeclared prescription medicines which enhance the effect of the herbal supplements, but could be dangerous.

“If you’re already taking paracetamol and then you take a herbal supplement that, unbeknownst to you, also contains paracetamol, you could be in trouble,” Ms Hoban said.

Some supplements were also found to contain dangerous levels of heavy metals such as lead.

Ms Hoban said herbal supplements which are not contaminated can still be dangerous.

“Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean that it’s safe and that it can’t interact with something else,” she said.

“Some of the most severe adverse drug reactions are seen when you combine a herb with a prescription medication, so be mindful of that.”

Many consumers believe products are tested before they end up on Australian shelves, but Ms Hoban said that isn’t the case.

“There’s a common misconception that products are tested for safety and efficacy before they’re on the shelf, but that’s not the case,” she said.

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