The Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that it has launched an investigation in the wake of a media report in South Korea about capsules from China - made from the flesh of dead babies - being used as stamina boosters.
Deng Haihua, spokesman of the ministry, said on Tuesday that the ministry has instructed its provincial agency in Jilin to look into the case.
Deng said China has strict management of disposal of infant and fetal remains as well as placentas.
"Any practice that handles the remains as medical waste is strictly prohibited," Deng said.
According to the country's regulations, medical institutions and their staff are prohibited from trading corpses.
The Global Times reported on Monday that SBS, one of the three major national television networks in South Korea, broadcast a documentary on Aug 6 about the appearance of capsules from China containing dead baby flesh.
According to the report, the TV program warned that some of the capsules were taken by Koreans.
The television team claimed to have been to China, found the hospital that sold the materials, and taken video of the manufacturing process.
It quoted insiders saying the "tonic" capsules are mainly sent to South Korea through members of the Korean ethnic group in China.
The ethnic group mainly inhabits Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces.
A test from the national customs office and institute of scientific investigation in South Korea showed the content of the pills received by the television team was 99.7 percent identical with humans, the program said.
It was not reported which hospital or city in China the team visited.
Phone calls to Customs in Jilin went unanswered on Tuesday.
A professor at the Third Hospital of Jilin University said he has never heard of such cases in his two-decade career.
"It's hard to comment, because it looks like a rumor," said the professor, surnamed Zhang. "This is impossible from my professional judgment."
Three traditional Chinese medicine experts and obstetrics doctors in Beijing and Shanghai contacted by China Daily said they have never heard of such cases and it seemed senseless.
It has long been a folk tradition to eat placentas in China. Placentas are believed to make up sperm and support the sufficiency of blood in traditional Chinese medicine.
In China, placentas belong to mothers of newborns. Medical institutions will handle a placenta if a mother gives it up or donates it. Nobody is allowed to sell or buy placentas according to the regulation from the Ministry of Health.
1. What were the pills meant to help?
2. Which ethnicity are the pills mainly being sold to?
3. Which three provinces do they largely occupy?
1. Stamina boosters.
3. Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang.
（中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑）
Todd Balazovic is a reporter for the Metro Section of China Daily. Born in Mineapolis Minnesota in the US, he graduated from Central Michigan University and has worked for the China Daily for one year.