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June 4, 1997

BSE Sets Agenda for Imported Gelatin

JAMA. 1997;277(21):1659-1660. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540450015005

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THE FALLOUT from "mad cow disease" continues, although incidence of the disease itself has been decreasing steadily since January 1993 (JAMA. 1996;276;438-440). The latest worry is a renewal of the uncertainties surrounding the risk of human exposure to the agent or agents of spongiform encephalopathy in gelatin, which is manufactured from the bones and hides of cows and pigs.

The concern has prompted a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee to advise the agency to reimpose a restriction on the use of gelatin manufactured from parts of cows imported from countries that have reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Humans are exposed to a wide variety of products that contain or use gelatin, from sausage casings and jellies to medicinal capsules and at least 1 vaccine.

In January, for example, Italian health authorities suspended distribution of a Haemophilus influenzae b conjugate vaccine (named HibTITER, manufactured by Wyeth-Lederle Vaccines and