Some 'Herbal' Supplements
Contain Raw Animal Parts
And Risk Of Mad Cow/CJD
By Amy Norton,1113,2-14-660_888862,00.html
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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