- New York - Despite their plant-based image, some herbal
supplements contain "raw animal parts" - including, according
to a report, cow brain matter that could theoretically pose the risk of
transmitting "mad cow" disease.
- There is no evidence that any herbal product has been
contaminated with the agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), the "mad cow disease" that triggers a similar brain-wasting
disease in humans who eat tainted beef.
- However, Dr. Scott A. Norton said in an interview, "I
would advise all of my patients not to take supplements that contain central
nervous system tissue from animals."
- The problem is that herbal-supplement labelling is not
always clear, Norton writes in a letter in the July 27th issue of The
New England Journal of Medicine. Although he found one product that listed
with its ingredients 17 cow organs, from lungs to brain matter, other
manufacturers are not so forthright.
- For example, most consumers would likely not realise
that "hypothalamus" refers to brain tissue, said Norton, a dermatologist
and botanist from Chevy Chase, Maryland. And "orchis" is the
preferred way to refer to bull testicles.
- "The public," Norton said, "doesn't fully
understand what they're getting into when they buy these products."
- Many people do not critically review a supplement's label,
and even when they do they may need a "special knowledge" to
grasp the terms, according to Norton. He criticised the "current
regulatory environment" in the US, which limits the power of the
Food and Drug Administration to oversee the dietary supplement industry.
- "It is hard for us to guard the public's health
in this one small niche, dietary supplements," Norton said. "There
is almost no caution."
- Even if supplements containing animal tissue pose no
health threat, the public should at least be aware they are there, according
to Norton. "I think a lot of us would feel we've been duped,"
he said, "if we think we're getting a wholesome product and then
find out it contains animal parts"..
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