‘Deadly’ Kava Kava plants seized in import crackdown

CXWKC6 Red chili peppers Alberobello Puglia South of Italy
CXWKC6 Red chili peppers Alberobello Puglia South of Italy

Officials have seized over 50 kilos of ‘deadly intoxicating peppers’ illegally imported to the UK.

Environmental health officers from Warwick District Council teamed up with the UK Border force and Parcelforce Worldwide to crackdown on imports of ‘Kava Kava’ - an intoxicating pepper used as a herbal ingredient in food and medicines.

Officers have since discovered and destroyed 54 kilograms of Kava Kava - imports of which were restricted in 2003 after being associated with increased risk of severe liver failure and even death.

They also detained a further 190 kilos of the plant which had been exported predominately from Figi.

The pepper comes from the plant, piper methysticum and is native to the Pacific Ocean islands.

The leaves and roots are used in herbal foods and medicinal products for their sedative and anaesthetic properties.

But these herbal medicines are regulated in the UK by the Medicines Control Agency after 110 connected cases of severe liver damage and nine deaths reported to the Food Standards Agency.

Cllr Michael Coker, portfolio holder for health and community protection said, “Whilst we understand that Kava Kava is used as a herbal medicine and as a drink, there are dangers of liver damage associated with the consumption of it.

“It is prohibited for import and therefore Environmental Health Officers have a duty to act if the product is identified as being imported.”