A potentially poisonous product is being promoted as morning sickness ‘antidote’, Public Health England (PHE) has warned.
Known as ‘Calabash chalk’, the substance was found to have high levels of lead and arsenic, both of which are toxic to humans.
Lead exposure during pregnancy can cause reduced birth weights, impaired neurodevelopment and impaired intrauterine grown.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued advice that these products should not be eaten, especially by pregnant and nursing mothers, due to the possibility of toxicity.
Diane Benford, from the FSA, said: “Tests of Calabash Chalk previously taken by the FSA have shown high levels of lead. For pregnant women, eating this product may result in harmful effects to their unborn baby, which is particularly at risk of effects on the nervous system.”
Dr Yvonne Doyle, regional director for PHE London, said: “It is of great concern to us that pregnant women may be taking these chalk products as a nutritional supplement during pregnancy.
“Exposure to heavy metals, like lead, should be kept as low as practically possible under all circumstances, but particularly during pregnancy when the risk of adverse effects is large.”
Calabash chalk is also known as Argile, La Craie, Mabele, Nzu or Shiley and is often used in the Asian and African communities.