Thursday, September 08, 2005

Gutless no longer

In the European Union (EU) it is unlawful for certain parts of cattle, called Specific Risk Material (SRM), to enter the human food chain. SRM comprises the nervous system (including the vertebral column), the eye, the tonsils and the entire intestine (from duodenum to rectum) in cattle older than 12 months. In the US, SRM includes the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia, eyes, vertebral column, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia of cattle 30 months of age or older and the small intestine of all cattle are specified risk materials that are prohibited in the human food supply. Tonsils from all cattle are also not allowed in the human food supply.

Not only is the US more lax on age (SRM from cattle greater than 30 months versus 12 months in the EU), but formerly included just the small intestines, not the entire intestine (large and small) as in the EU. This week, with all eyes on the Katrina debacle and memories of the US BSE case fading, the FDA loosened the regs further, now only prohibiting a short portion of the small intestine:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today published several amendments to the July 2004 interim final rule, "Use of Materials Derived from Cattle in Human Food and Cosmetics," that will allow the use of certain cattle-derived material in human foods and cosmetics.

The rule prohibits the use of cattle-derived materials that can carry the infectious agent for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, in human foods, dietary supplements, and in cosmetics. Based on the scientific information provided during the interim final rule's comment period, which demonstrates that a part of the cow's digestive tract called the distal ileum can be consistently and effectively removed from the other sections of the small intestine, it is no longer necessary to designate the entire small intestine as a prohibited cattle material.

As a result, FDA is amending the rule to allow use of the small intestine in human food and cosmetics, provided that the distal ileum has been removed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is publishing today a similar amendment to its interim final rule on BSE. (FDA Website)
So while the FDA may be gutless, your food and cosmetics won't be.