FDA decommissions “Poisonous Plant Database”
AHPA had requested website corrections since 2017
February 10, 2022
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decommissioned an inaccurately titled repository of references following several years of requests by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) for the agency to address confusion created by this FDA product.
The system, titled “FDA Poisonous Plant Database”, was presented as an online source for scientific references describing toxic properties and effects attributed to plants or plant parts, though many of the studies identified were on purified compounds or reported harm to grazing animals.
Due to its broad scope, the database included a large number of entries regarding plants commonly used in food, such as onions, broccoli, garlic and lettuce, as well as a large number of herbs and other botanicals used in dietary supplements that are not, in fact, poisonous. FDA had stopped updating the database in May 2008, but it remained visible and linked across multiple parts of the FDA site, and entries from the database could be found in internet searches. As a result, consumers and members of industry encountering the database could come to the mistaken belief that plants listed in the database were dangerous or restricted under federal law. While there was a disclaimer on the site's homepage, it did not state that inclusion of references in the database did not imply that a listed plant presented any actual hazard or risk.
Following several consumer and industry inquiries regarding listed plants, AHPA requested in 2017 that FDA revise the database name and provide additional stronger disclaimer materials, so that consumers would not be misled into thinking that safely consumed plants listed in a “poisonous plant database” are actually poisonous. After multiple additional requests from AHPA in the interim, FDA has now decommissioned the database as of January 2022. The former site location remains to direct consumers to appropriate resources regarding toxic plant exposure, such as the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
FDA is now in the process of removing links and references to the database from the FDA website. If you find a link to the database that should be removed, please contact Robert Marriott, AHPA's Director of Regulatory Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.