07/05/2012 10:46 BST | Updated 08/05/2012 05:35 BST

Capsules Made With Dead Baby Flesh Seized By South Korea (VIDEO)

Thousands of smuggled drug capsules filled with powdered flesh from dead babies have been seized by South Korean customs officers.

The customs authorities said more than 17,000 of the capsules had been illegally brought into the country from China since August 2011. The powdered flesh is believed by some to cure disease and boost stamina.

However, officials insist the the capsules, which contain flesh of dead babies and foetuses, are full of bacteria and pose a health risk.

Reports from AP suggest that the capsules were made in China from dead babies whose bodies were chopped into pieces and dried before being turned into the powder and placed in the capsules.

"It was confirmed those capsules contain materials harmful to the human body, such as super bacteria. We need to take tougher measures to protect public health," a customs official was quoted as saying by the Korea Times.

The discovery of the illegal trade has forced South Korean authorities to take a tougher line with a pledge to increase inspection of imports from north-east China, the origin of the smuggled capsules.

So far, none of the smugglers has been punished because the amounts being brought were too small and that those involved - ethnic Koreans from north-east China who now live in South Korea - were not intending to sell them on. Customs officials said that the smugglers claimed to be ignorant of the capsules' contents and thought they were stamina boosters.

The BBC reported that allegations of these capsules being smuggled first appeared last year in a South Korean television documentary with China's Health Ministry adding that it was investigating the claims raised by the programme.

At the time of the programme's airing, the San Francisco Times reported that the Korean team who got hold of the capsules ran DNA tests on the contents. The results showed that the powder was 99.7% human.

Ministry spokesman Deng Haihua, quoted at the time in China Daily, said China had "strict management of disposal of infant and foetal remains as well as placentas".