China will investigate South Korean claims that the country is the source of smuggled capsules made from human flesh, but said it had found no such evidence yet, Chinese state media said Wednesday.
This handout photo released by Korea Customs Service on May 8, 2012 shows capsules filled with powdered human flesh in Daejeon, officials reported.
The gruesome practice came to light Sunday when Korea Customs said it had found 35 attempts to import from China 17,451 capsules containing the powdered flesh of dead babies, taken as a disease cure or to boost sexual performance.
A spokesman for China's Ministry of Health said Tuesday that a previous investigation had uncovered no evidence such capsules were made in China, the official Shanghai Daily newspaper reported.
"The health authority has carried out a thorough investigation but so far no such capsules were found," spokesman Deng Haihua was quoted as saying.
Reports of the capsules first surfaced in South Korean media in August last year, Deng said, adding the government would further probe the claims.
The ministry declined to comment Wednesday when reached by AFP.
Korea Customs said pills were sent from at least four Chinese cities at the request of customers in South Korea, but were intercepted in the mail or in customs searches at airports.
Some were hidden in packages of legitimate drugs to disguise their contents.
The claims have raised ethical questions and worries the capsules could be contaminated with "super bacteria" and other disease-causing organisms.
A Korea Customs official told AFP on Tuesday that the country would closely monitor flights from "certain Chinese regions" and inspect the luggage of passengers more frequently than before.
Bringing in such pills breaches a regulation banning items that "violate social dignity and customs", said Kim Soo-Yeon, an official in charge of customs clearance.
Under Chinese law, medical institutions are forbidden to trade in foetal remains or placentas.
Hospitals cannot dispose of foetuses and deceased infants as medical waste, the Shanghai Daily said. They must be treated as other human remains and cremated.