December 23, 2009
The Texas Department of State Health Services is warning consumers, especially pregnant or breastfeeding women, to avoid consuming a traditional product called "Nzu" because of the potential health risks from high levels of lead and arsenic.
Nzu, which is consumed as a traditional remedy for morning sickness, has been found by DSHS food inspectors at two African specialty stores – one in the Dallas area and one in Houston. It was also found at a distributor in Houston. The product generally resembles balls of clay or mud and also is called Calabash clay, Calabar stone, Mabele, Argile and La Craie.
Laboratory analysis by DSHS found high levels of lead and arsenic in this product.
Exposure to lead can result in a number of harmful effects, and a developing child is particularly at risk of effects on the brain and nervous system. Arsenic is a carcinogen, and excessive long-term exposure to it has been associated with a range of adverse health effects, including cancers of the urinary bladder, lung and skin.
The Nzu may be covered in a brown or white “dust” and is usually sold in small plastic bags with a handwritten label identifying it as "Nzu" or "Salted Nzu"
Anyone who has been ingesting the product should contact their health care provider.
The source of the product in Texas is not yet known. Inspectors with DSHS are continuing to investigate.
(News Media Contact: Allison Lowery, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, 512-458-7400.)
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