Gelatin Makers Concerned About Product Ban by France

Gelatin Makers Concerned About Product Ban by France

June 11, 2001, Chemical Market Reporter

European gelatin manufacturers are worried about the possibility of other European Union countries following the example of France by prohibiting the use in food of gelatin made from bovine bones.

The French government introduced late last month an immediate ban in food products of gelatin sourced from cow bones in order to implement EU guidelines on safety measures regarding bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease.

The guidelines cover the removal of vertebral columns and other specified risk materials (SRMs) from carcasses of bovine animals during the slaughtering process.

The agriculture and fisheries ministry in Paris claimed that it would be impossible to ensure all slaughter houses properly removed spinal columns. Instead, it decided that a complete ban of gelatin sources from bovine bones was the best way to comply with the EU instructions.

"From the scientific point of view, there should be no danger that other countries would do the same," says Patrick Goossens, commercial manager at PB Gelatin, Brussels, and president of Gelatin Manufacturers of Europe (GME). "But often decisions like this are taken for political reasons, so we cannot be certain," he adds.

The French government has been heavily criticized in France for delaying action to safeguard human health from the effects of BSE. A report of a French Senate commission alleged last month that the agriculture ministry had hampered precautionary measures. A National Assembly commission is scheduled to issue its own report on the matter this month.

Only a small percentage of gelatin from bovine bone is used in food in Europe. Since the outbreak of BSE in the region, food companies have been switching to porcine-sourced gelatin.

But the French ban is causing problems for makers of gelatin capsules for food supplements, such as vitamins and minerals. These are bovine-sourced, since gelatin from pigskin is unsuitable.

The ban does not apply to medicines. But the French pharmaceuticals sector has been angered by the decision because it has been conducting a publicity campaign on the safety of capsules and other gelatin materials for drugs.

"This decision will confuse consumers because understandably they will wonder what is the difference between a capsule for a dietary supplement and one for a medicine," says an executive at one gelatin producer. He pointed out that capsule makers supplying the French market will still have the option of using bovine hides instead of bones as a raw material.

The French measure could also cause friction with the US because the ban will apply to gelatin made from bovine bones not only in the rest of the EU but also in the US. This is because the EU has recently categorized the US as a country in which the presence of the disease is unlikely, but is not excluded.

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