Malaysian coffee with Tongkat Ali recalled by US authorities

PETALING JAYA - A coffee business owned by a Malaysian in the United States has voluntarily recalled a line of its "Kopi Jantan Tradisional" coffee for containing a substance similar to what is found in the male sexual enhancement drug, Viagra.

Albert Yee, who runs the one-man import company Bestherbs Coffee LLC, sells the coffee that is widely available in Malaysia to his online customers from his base in Grand Prairie.

US-based The Washington Post reported that the coffee, which is labelled as "Kopi Jantan Tradisional New Herbs Coffee", is now at the centre of a nationwide recall after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that it contained undeclared ingredients such as desmethyl carbodenafil and milk.

"Desmethyl carbodenafil is structurally similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, an FDA-approved prescription drug for erectile dysfunction," the publication quoted the FDA as saying in a statement.

The FDA said the coffee could be dangerous as it had the potential to lower blood pressure to "dangerous levels" while there were also possible harmful effects if the substance in the coffee interacted with nitrates found in prescription drugs like nitroglycerin.

"Men with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease often take nitrates," the FDA said, adding that the undeclared milk ingredient was also dangerous for consumers with allergies.

Yee, 67, told The Washington Post when contacted on Thursday that he expects a few hundred to a thousand bags sold between July 2014 and June 2016 to be returned to him and then handed over to the FDA for destruction.

The recall is the FDA's latest involving coffee containing the ingredient, which is said to be able to cure male erectile dysfunction.

Stiff Bull Herbal Coffee and Caverlo Natural Herbal Coffee also faced similar recalls. Both brands had advertised the inclusion of Tongkat Ali, the root of a tree found in Malaysian rainforests and distilled to pill form or mixed with coffee or tea.

The producers of Stiff Bull Herbal Coffee claimed that coffee sellers mixed in desmethyl carbodenafil to cut down on high costs of the Tongkat Ali root, which raises the possibility of a similar case with the coffee marketed by Yee.