Greenpeace is raising red flags about herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine after it says it found toxic levels of pesticide residues in herb samples bought in Europe and in North America.
The investigation conducted in seven countries also took samples from stores in Chinatowns in Toronto and Vancouver, and sent them to an independent lab in China for analysis.
Eric Darier, who works on Greenpeace's agricultural campaign, said some of the herbal remedies were found to be more like pesticide cocktails.
"Internationally, we were shocked by the quantities of pesticide residues we found in all the samples, some of them with alarming numbers. For example, in Canada, the honeysuckle had over 24 pesticide residues," he said.
Some of those who sell Chinese medicine say there are safeguards in place at both local and federal levels.
Michael Chung, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine in Vancouver, said consumers should be concerned about pesticides in their herbs or foods, but good doctors can also be good gatekeepers.
"As a practitioner ... we have always been emphasizing the safety of the herbs we give to our patients," he said. "No matter if it is in powder form or the raw herbs form, we always check with our suppliers to make sure they are safe."
Albert Fok, a Chinese traditional herbalist in Vancouver, said in his view, government regulations keep the products safe for consumption.
"The government of Canada, Health Canada in particular, they have very stringent rules for importation. The CFIA , the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, is very diligent, very stringent and very zealous on food inspection so those who made it to the retail store are relatively quite safe," he said.
Health Canada says it has not detected the presence of pesticide in traditional Chinese medicines sold in Canada.
In a statement sent to CBC News, the federal ministry said over the past five years, government labs have analyzed samples of traditional herbs where toxic residue was suspected but so far none has ever been detected.