General  > From Lipstick to Marshmallows, It's Got Some Cow in It


Where Some Parts Wind Up

Dr. T.J. Salgia (Columbus, OH) submitted following information. It reveals very clearly, how careful an Ahimsak shopper needs to be in the western world


Where's the beef? Just about everywhere, it seems. When the British beef scare peaked, it caused plenty of headaches for consumers and manufacturers of a multitude of products.


Processed cow fats are many times used to make cookies and salty snacks taste rich and to make lipsticks glide smoothly. Cow proteins show up in shampoo. Collagen, extracted from the inner layer of cattle hide, is used to balm wounds and cosmetically puff up lips. Gelatin, refined from cattle hide and bones, is found in such foods as ice cream, gummy candies and marshmallows -- as well as the capsules encasing drugs.


When the European Union voted to ban imports of British beef, citing fears it could cause a rare human brain disease, the ban went beyond steak and ground beef to include anything else made from processed cow parts. And as public concern about mad-cow disease grew, British grocers were fielding worried questions from shoppers -- and not just in the meat department.


But the hunt for cow byproducts was tedious and time-consuming. The European Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association had tough time assuring that association members weren't using the cow parts that were suspected of carrying mad-cow disease: the brain, eye and central nervous system.


Part of consumers' anxiety stemmed from the fact that Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, that is linked to mad-cow disease (BSE), may take 10 years after exposure to show up. British processors faced fewer restrictions before studies narrowed in on the cow organs suspected to harboring BSE. Before 1990, renderers simply carted away whatever was left of the cow carcasses from slaughterhouses and cooked the goop into fatty tallow. "It's a bit like cooking lard," says Alan Sadler of the U.K. Renderers Association. The process also produces more powdery gelatin, which would be fed to livestock.


The gelatin that winds up in cosmetics and drug-capsule casings goes through more extensive processing, according to Croda International PLC, the U.K.'s largest gelatin maker. They say that the bones are degreased, soaked in hydrochloric acid, cooked to the boiling point, left in a "vacuum evaporator" and then flash-sterilized. The British beef gelatin is limited to uses like photographic film. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continued allowing the use of cow parts from England in pharmaceutical-grade gelatin.


Another beef byproduct of concern is the insulin for diabetics that comes from cows. Still, developing a vegetable-based alternative to gelatin for pills has proved tricky. And food companies are reluctant to give up animal fats. "It adds to the flavor and eating quality," according to England's United Biscuits PLC.


For a while, the U.K. became very wary about meat in all its forms. England's Vegetarian Society distributed a list of products that may contain beef products, and a list of ingredient names that vegetarians watch for (stearate, stearic acid, oleic acid, rennet, glycerol). The group's phone kept ringing for a long time.