- BETHESDA, Md (Reuters) - Gelatin made from cattle bones and hides in countries
with mad cow disease is safe if certain precautions are taken, a panel
of scientists told the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Thursday.
- Last year the FDA barred manufacturers
of foods and pharmaceutical capsules from using gelatin from cattle bones
or hides in countries with reported cases of mad cow disease, unless the
heads and spinal cords were immediately removed after slaughter.
- But on Thursday, the advisory panel of
researchers and veterinarians said the spinal cord and tissue would no
longer have to be removed immediately after slaughter. The FDA usually
follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.
- Committee chairman Paul Brown of the
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke said the advisers
want to review gelatin safety again in a year, when more industry studies
- The FDA restriction has caused a supply
shortage because U.S. manufacturers rely heavily on Europe for raw material,
and spinal columns are not routinely removed in those countries, said William
Stringer of the Coalition of Gelatin Capsule Manufacturers.
- Stringer said the panel's decision would
help ease the shortage, but added that ``there is no evidence that gelatin
or gelatin products serve as a vector for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
or mad cow disease).'' Field tests by the British government found no evidence
of BSE in skins or hides, although there was some hint that it might be
in the bone marrow of animals more than 30 months old, said Raymond Bradley
of the U.K. agriculture ministry.
- Earlier on Thursday, the panel separately
recommended that the FDA continue to bar imports of tallow from countries
with outbreaks of mad cow disease. They said there was a small risk that
people could be infected by products made from cows with the disease.
- But unlike gelatin, relatively little
tallow is imported into the United States for foods and food additives.
The panel said the FDA should relax its policy on tallow derivatives, which
members saw as posing less risk. Derivatives are used in pharmaceuticals,
soap, cosmetics and food additives. A worldwide ban on beef products from
Britain has been in effect since that nation's outbreak of mad cow disease
in the mid-1980s. The European Union has proposed banning all trade in
tallow and other byproducts, which the United States estimates could jeopardize
$4.5 billion in American pharmaceutical and cosmetics exports to Europe.