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December 1, 2000
FDA Reiterates Warning Against Using Bovine Tissue InSupplements
WASHINGTON--The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in a Nov. 14 letter tomanufacturers and importers, reiterated that there are certain public health andsafety issues concerning dietary supplements that contain bovine tissues.
FDA recommended that firms take whatever steps are necessary to ensure thatingredients do not come from cattle born, raised or slaughtered in countrieswhere bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) exists. Listed countries includedGreat Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland, which have allbeen dealing with BSE concerns over the past several weeks.
This warning follows a letter to the editor published months ago in the July27 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), in which a doctor wrote that dietarysupplements contain undisclosed amounts of raw animal tissue. This news spreadlike wildfire across the nation, igniting peoples imaginations and enflamingthe medias already wary attitude toward the herbal supplement industry.
"Although dietary supplements are often called 'herbal supplements,'they may contain raw animal parts," Dr. Scott Norten, a dermatologist fromChevy Chase, Md., wrote to NEJM. "Some products contain so many ingredientsthat the print on the labels is almost unreadably [sic] small, which may serveto hide the presence of the offal within."
He went on to say that consumers may be susceptible to contracting, BSE,which ultimately leads to mad cow disease. However, in an interview withReuters Health, Norton claimed, "There is no evidence that any herbalproduct has been contaminated with the agent that causes [BSE]."
When the letter was published, the industry rebutted the letter by statingthat Norten was confusing gladulars with herbal supplements. "The way thissubject is being reported to the American public is absolutely false andmisleading," said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of theAmerican Botanical Council (ABC). "By definition, herbs are fromplants," he said. "Saying that animal products are herbal is contraryto very basic rules of science classification, where everything falls into thethree general categories of animal, vegetable, or mineral.
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