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Customs warns about health products sold online after test of diet coffee

Customs has warned people to beware when buying health products online after a Canterbury laboratory found substances which may amount to controlled drugs in a test of a diet coffee.

Compliance Partners, which does drug tests for employment reasons, issued a statement last week after tests carried out on a woman applying for a job in New Zealand returned a "not negative" result for amphetamines.

They questioned her and concluded that the result was likely due to her consumption of Valentus SlimROAST coffee.

"The candidate was certain that the result was incorrect, as she is not a drug user and had always been cautious about any involvement with drugs," Compliance Partners said.

The woman provided some SlimROAST to Compliance Partners, which had it tested by Canterbury Health Laboratories, and they said it contained two ingredients of concern: Phenethylamine (PEA), and 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA).

UPDATE, 11 October 2019: Medsafe seizes supplies of diet coffee

PEA is a stimulant in the amphetamine family which occurs in very small amounts in the human body, and in some foods like wine and chocolate.

It causes a short rush of dopamine to be released in the consumer, giving a general sense of stimulation and wellbeing.

DMAA is a stimulant which was once used a nasal decongestant, and it was a common active ingredient in party pills after benzylpiperizine (BZP) was banned in New Zealand.

The Valentus website, featuring a selection of weight loss products. Source: Screenshot

Valentus, the company that makes the coffee and sells it through affiliates around the world, confirmed to 1 NEWS that PEA is one of the ingredients in SlimROAST, and has now denied it contains DMAA.

The spokesperson said the coffee is labelled as not being compliant with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) regulations because of the potential for a false positive for amphetamines.

"None of the ingredients in the coffee possess regulated drug status," Valentus said.

However, a Ministry of Health spokesperson confirmed to 1 NEWS that PEA is, in their opinion, a controlled drug analogue.

"In our opinion, phenethylamine has a structure substantially similar to amphetamine - if phenethylamine is in a form that is not naturally occurring, then it may be captured under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 as a controlled drug analogue.

"Controlled drug analogue means any substance that has a structure substantially similar to that of any controlled drug."

The Ministry's position suggests that PEA, as a controlled drug analogue, is classified a Class C drug in New Zealand - the same classification as cannabis.

The listed ingredients of Valentus SlimROAST coffee. Source: Valentus website/Screenshot

SlimROAST also contains 2-Amino-5-Methylheptane, according to the ingredients list published online, which is a drug known as Octodrine, or DMHA.

DMHA has a chemical structure which is very similar to DMAA, and it has very similar effects - it is a potent stimulant.

According to the Ministry of Health, DMAA is a prescription medicine in New Zealand under the Medicines Act 1981 - and so any analogues of DMAA - including DMHA - are also controlled.

1 NEWS has confirmed that Valentus SlimROAST has been, and is currently being sold in New Zealand through social media sites and online marketplaces.

A screenshot of a message sent by a Valentus affiliate selling SlimROAST coffee over Facebook, who claimed to be based in New Zealand. Source: Facebook screenshot

A spokesperson for Customs said consumers should exercise "extreme caution" when ordering the coffee from overseas websites, as it could potentially be intercepted at the border.

"This case is an important reminder of "buyer beware” when it comes to importing products from overseas-based websites," Customs Northern Ports Manager Mark O’Toole said.

"We urge New Zealanders to exercise extreme caution when it comes to buying dietary supplements and medicines online – you have no guarantee of what you're actually getting.

"While you may have every intent to buy legal products, it is important to scrutinise the ingredients – but this can prove difficult if banned substances are not explicitly listed.

"It is not worth the risk, especially where your health is concerned."

According to Police, the maximum penalty for possessing a Class C drug in New Zealand is three months in prison and/or a $500 fine.

Supplying a Class C drug carries a maximum prison term of eight years.

Customs asked anyone who suspected that controlled substances were being imported to report it to them confidentially by calling 0800 4 CUSTOMS (0800 428 786).

The Ministry of Health has asked anyone with information about SlimROAST being sold in New Zealand to contact Medsafe - they can be emailed here.

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Valentus SlimROAST coffee products. Source: Valentus SlimROAST website