Quack medicine pills made from babies and super bacteria smuggled from China to South Korea

The South Korean customs department is going to target its inspections in order to intercept shipments of Chinese quack medicine tablets made from the flesh of babies and foetuses, which are sometimes infected with superbacteria. From the BBC:

"It was confirmed those capsules contain materials harmful to the human body, such as super bacteria. We need to take tougher measures to protect public health," a customs official was quoted as saying by the Korea Times.

Inspections are to be stepped up on shipments of drugs arriving from north-east China, Yonhap news agency reported.

The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said that capsules were being dyed or switched into boxes of other drugs in a bid to disguise them.

Some of the capsules were found in travellers' luggage and some in the post, customs officials said.

Allegations that human flesh capsules were being trafficked from north-east China into South Korea emerged last year in a South Korean television documentary.

The thing I don't get is why the rip-off artists who sell these things don't just fill the tablets with sugar and say they're full of powdered baby. It's not like the credulous dunces buying the stuff will be able to tell the difference, and surely sugar is easier to get hold of.

S Korea 'to target powdered human flesh capsules' (via JWZ)


  1. why not just use sugar rather than ‘real’ bebe – ? You’re missing the point, which is why this is (or should be) so disturbing and exasperating – because the sellers BELIEVE in the powers of the product just as much as the buyer. just when you thought your powdered rhino horn and snow leopard tail extract were depressing enough indicator’s of man’s on-going struggle with superstition and stupidity

    1. It’s ok with the pro-fetal stem cell types here. The only moral difference is that the pills here don’t work as advertised. Otherwise, what’s the diff?

      1. There’s oversight, ethical boards, quality control and public scrutiny of tissue or organ donation, whether the tissue is for implantation or for research.  The research gained by these means has the potential to enlarge our understanding of many processes, test medications, procedures, and help many patients, including those who don’t receive these products. Other than that, no difference.  If a family member died, I would want his or her tissues and organs to be made use of by the living in a medical setting, if I felt it was going to benefit someone, either directly, or later, by donating the body for research.  I wouldn’t approve their bodies being randomly being packaged and illegally sold as dubious cure alls.

  2. I wouldn’t be surprised if ground up baby was cheaper than sugar in parts of China.

    I am grateful in this case that at least it’s coming from the diametric opposite of an endangered species, but can’t we convince these dupes in the magical healing powers of polonium?  When this stuff makes it to the rubes in the US I’d like it to just kill them, not spread.

      1. Agreed. There is much to dislike about the fishing industry and all it’s ancillary industries, but I still take cod liver oil in the dark months lest the SAD beast eat my brain. (If I were in NFLD I’d just eat Cod tongues/cheeks, but alas, the dark months out there are even worse!)

  3. Powdered baby?  What the fuck?

    Anything past that is just more crazytalk.  Powdered fucking babies?  How the fuck is that OK anywhere, ever?

  4. Um…I don’t want to sound macabre but…dare I mention that I’m happier with ground human pills than I am with ground Rhino/Tiger/Elephant pills?  Of course, the caveat being that the humans are dead (of causes not related to the pills/pill sellers) prior to being ground up.  And with the family’s permission, of course.  And also…ah screw it.
    Yay for ground babies.

  5. The thing I don’t get is why the rip-off artists who sell these things don’t just fill the tablets with sugar and say they’re full of powdered baby. It’s not like the credulous dunces buying the stuff will be able to tell the difference, and surely sugar is easier to get hold of.

    They are True Believers, Cory.  You are one too, but you happen to believe in different memes, so these seem nonsensical to you.

  6. Cory, you don’t get why they don’t just put sugar in the capsules?  

    Perhaps they’re not “rip-off artists” selling to “credulous dunces”, but, rather, believers in folk medicine supplying other believers.

    Whether there’s any scientific support for the belief in this particular folk medicine is largely irrelevant. If the pill makers are themselves believers, they might very well (and quite rightly) regard selling their customers sugar pills as indefensible fraud.

    You already assume the pills are conscious fraud, so you don’t understand what difference the actual ingredient would make.  

    But even if it is conscious fraud, using sugar would be proof positive of fraudulent intent, would it not?

    So maybe they’re true believers. Or maybe they’re just smarter about minimizing legal liability than you are. :-)

    (And BTW, how certain are you that human fetal or neonatal tissue has no beneficial medicinal properties? I can think of half a dozen reasons why it might, just off the top of my head.  I confess I haven’t seen any studies, but then, this is the first I’ve heard of it.)

    1. -powdered- non-specific tissue? 


      Now can you think of half a dozen reasons why that would not have any benefit, because if not I call into question your ability to think of half a dozen reasons why it might have any non-placebic beneficial medicinal properties.

      How about just one, non-placebic reason that has more “maybe” and less or equal potential for harm than an equal amount of nothing at all?

      edit- I get you were joking, sometimes I forget how it is kind of funny the way that quacks and freaks peddle the same sort of uncertainty you use as the basis of your joke to promote anti-vaccine, homeopathy and other frauds.

      pro-med-sci – “Vaccines hold potential risk, but not in the manner you say, to the extent you say, and the risk is a tiny fraction of the definitive, historically documented scourge of disease left unchecked.

      anti-vac – “Oh really, and you think you understand all that medical/history mumbo-jumbo?”

      pro-med-sci “Yes.”

      anti-vac “AHA! BUT YOU SEE, I CAN’T!”

      pro-med-sci “I can help you with that, here is some literature, information etc”

      anti-vac “Are you seriously asking me to question what I believe?”

      1. Question my ability all you want. I’m neither a doctor nor a biologist – just a fairly well-informed, scientifically literate layman.

        I’m not joking, or relying on anyone’s lack of understanding.  

        I ingest tablets of freeze-dried powdered compressed pig parts prescribed by my MD.  They make a HUGE difference in my health, in all sorts of ways.   It’s standard mainstream Western medicine.  Tons of scientific evidence.

        So I don’t see any show-stoppers in your list.  Ingested? Yep.  Powdered? Yep. Now, my pig-part pills are from a specific part of the pig, but that’s hardly conclusive by itself. (Which pieces of the fetus are used?  Do you know? I don’t.)

        I’m certainly not saying these pills ARE beneficial, mind you.

        I’m just saying it’s easy to see how they MIGHT be – how powdered human fetus might have some actual biological effect that might possibly benefit some unwell people – even if the effects aren’t quite as dramatic or wide-ranging as my powdered pig pills.

        And that it’s not hard for me to understand how someone might suspect (or even believe) such a thing, given parallels like my pig pills, without them necessarily being “credulous dunces.”

        Anyway, I wouldn’t dismiss such suspicions out-of-hand without at least some further investigation, but maybe I just don’t know whatever it is that other people know that makes them so certain.

        Which is why I asked, “What makes you so certain….?”

        I think it’s a fair question.

        1. Huh thought you must be joking. Colour me advantaged though, for having read of this months ago and utilizing that more than the article above. 

          You can’t see from the above that the process used is not comparable to your parallel, because what they are doing is using babies and third trimester foetusus, all of it, as soon after death as possible. They don’t dessicate in the way you would prepare a porcine thyroid gland (the only part you are prescribed BTW if you are among the very small minority not using the synthesized thyroxine), instead they chop up the body (all of it) and use small stoves to dry, then crush to powder foregoing binders, and pour into gelatin capsules.

          Essentially they end up cooking & drying instead of just drying. The only possible benefit would be trace nutritive if you ingested a whack of them, since they mix the cooked/dried parts before crushing to powder. 

          They aren’t doing this based on any traditional Chinese medicine practice, or any other cultural practice, except the universal cultural practice of selling rarity ascribed with wondrous properties, cancer patients are a segment of their customer base in SK, along with the people buying it for “stamina” and regenerative  sexual prowess. Capitalizing on the weakened and desperate, same as it ever was.

          Cory is spot on with his assessment, though it isn’t entirely supported in the article linked.

          edit – cause I don’t think it’s that big a deal, that it’s a bit sensationalized, from what I read they’ve only intercepted 20,000? pills, which is probably around 20kg of baby sans water, so like a few hundred babies is my now stretched guess, because I don’t know how much babies weigh when dried.

          1.  In a newborn infant body water content may be as high as 75 percent of the body weight, but it progressively decreases from birth to old age. 

          2. Thanks for answering my question.  I was seeking understanding, not contention.

            It wasn’t immediately obvious to me, based on the linked article, whether the process was sufficiently different from that employed in my small-minority thyroid medication* as to be reflexively dismissed.

            Which is why I asked, “Why are you so certain?.” 

            I didn’t – and wouldn’t – say, “We can’t be certain.” :-)

            * Armour (TM) Desiccated Thyroid. (I’m just glad I can get it again – it was unavailable for a while, and single-ingredient synthetic thyroxine left me rather unwell. Small minority?  Yep, that’s me. :-) Story of my life.)

        2.  I think I agree with you, in that I think that we agree that powdered baby is a very dubious, ethically wrong thing thing to sell, and I doubt that there’s any significant benefit, and likely a hell of a lot of risk, but it’s possible some growth factors might survive processing and have some positive impact.  I’m think of lyophilized calf serum and similar products, that I believe still contain growth factors or such.  These might still be around and these might be absorbed on ingestion.  It’d help if we could see the protocol on how baby pills were made, but I really, really don’t want to know. 

  7. Jesus, these people are stuck in the stone age… Makes about as much sense as magical underwear, golden tablets, theton readers and virgin births.

    1. I’ll give you the magical underwear, golden tablets and theton readers, but you have to give me virgin births.

      After all, Komodo Dragons can reproduce via parthenogenesis, and what evidence do we really have that Mary (and all her forebears of virgin birth myth) was not a Komodo Dragon?

  8. Instead of sugar I was going to suggest slugs and snails and puppy dog tails but then I realized those would be boy baby ingredients which would be even less convincing. Girl baby and foetus flesh would be much more plentiful so sugar and spice would be the appropriate substitute ingredients (explaining “everything nice” is lost in the processing). And then I was even sadder.

  9. Please maintain a healthy skepticism everybody.  We don’t actually know what happened, and even though the story links to the BBC, all that they are actually reporting are claims by the Korea Customs Service, whose credibility I have no experience with.

    I am not saying this is definitely bullshit, but neither do I know if it is true.  I notice that in the 6 months since this story originally ran (and was on boingboing at that time too), there has been zero followup.  No new reports, nada.  In my mind, this is still entirely in the “who knows what’s really going on” category.

    If the BBC reported that the US Customs and Border Patrol had announced that they were going to step up enforcement against smuggling of dry baby pills from Mexico, I think our bullshit detectors would be going off.  And we would not be talking about wtf why are mexicans eating babies.

    1. Bacteria with superbacteria abilities, usually in tights, or normal bacteria with handy utility belts, also often in tights. They are rare (in the scope of bacteria) but gaining in popularity.

    2. True Believers of “mainstream” medicine have overused antibiotics and disinfectants of various kinds to breed bacteria that are much harder to kill than “normal” bacteria.  It’s said that in Iraq and Afghanistan the US medical corps accidentally created superbacteria that could live a bucket of lysol, although I have no idea if this is true.

      Humans evolved to live in a rich soup of microscopic life.  Our recent efforts to sterilize our surroundings and innards are anti-scientific silliness.  But keep in mind that you really don’t want the practice of medicine to be scientific – medical science is great in the lab and all, but when you do science in the doctor’s office you end up with the Tuskegee Syphilis Study or some similar atrocity – real medical science requires control groups and you don’t want your kid to get placebos instead of antibiotics if she’s got scarlet fever.

      True Believers will object to most of what I just said, but fundamentally the practice of medicine is an art or a craft, not a science.  And that’s a good thing.

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