Govt to discourage beef by-products;
Beef essence production to be frozen; food makers switch to imports

October 2, 2001 The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo)
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will ask processed food manufacturers to stop using extracts or enriched additives, such as beef essence and collagen, from cattle meat and bone as they may contain a pathogen that causes the human form of mad cow disease, ministry officials said Monday.

The ministry will send the directive to all processed food manufacturers through the relevant organizations as early as this week, the officials said.

The officials said they expected the manufacturers to take the appropriate measures, such as sourcing noncattle food additives, to comply with the ministry directive. The officials said the ministry will freeze temporarily the production of beef essence, which is used in seasoning and soups; collagen and placenta essence, which are contained in so-called beauty drinks; and health products containing powdered bone.

Beef essence is a seasoning made with boiled cattle meat or bone; collagen is the source of gelatin.

Experts have pointed out that processed food using constituents extracted from cattle bone and meat or enriched constituents may contain prions--the proteins that cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

The human form of mad cow disease can be contracted through eating BSE-infected food.

Such concerns are behind the ministry's decision, the officials said.

From late October, all cattle 30 months of age or older will undergo ministry screening. Those cattle found to be BSE-free will be cleared for use in the production of processed food, the officials said.

The ministry has already banned processed cattle-food imports from the European Union, but will ask processed food manufacturers to verify whether BSE-infected materials were used in imports from countries regarded as safe, the officials said.

Meanwhile, consumers have expressed their concerns to food manufacturers.

Some manufacturers already have begun importing raw materials, but the ministerial directive means more work for them, and some are not happy.

Ajinomoto Co. uses beef essence in its consomme soup, and said it will have to review its strategy from the ground up if beef essence cannot be used.

Tokyo-based Wakodo, a major baby food maker, daily receives about 20 consumer inquiries, most asking about the safety of products that contain beef essence. Wakodo recently decided to use only cattle products imported from BSE-safe countries such as Australia, even though it previously used only small quantities of domestic beef essence.

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