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Press Release 98/17



Rome, March 5 -- After examining new evidence, an independent scientific committee has reconfirmed that treating cows with the hormone bovine somatotropins, known as BST, to increase milk production is safe, according to a technical report released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The joint FAO- World Health Organization (WHO) committee concluded that "there are no food safety or health concerns related to BST residues in products such as milk and meat from treated animals." The use of BST increases a cow's milk production by 10 to 15 percent.

Disagreement over use of BST has complicated trade in dairy products between the United States, where BST is widely used, and the European Union, which has opposed use of the hormone.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), determines the safety of residues from veterinary drugs in food and establishes acceptable daily intakes (ADIs) and maximum residue limits (MRLs) for certain drugs when they are used on food-producing animals in accordance with good animal husbandry practices.

In the area of maximum residue limits (MRL) for BST, the Committee found that available data on the identity and concentration of residues of the veterinary drug in animal tissues provide a wide margin of safety for consumption of residues in food when the drug is used according to good practice in the use of veterinary drugs. The Committee concluded that the presence of drug residues in animal products does not present any health concerns.

In arriving at its conclusions on BST, JECFA considered possible problems such as the chances of an increase in the udder disease, mastitis, in BST-treated cows which could lead to contamination of milk with antibiotics used to treat mastitis. The Committee concluded that the use of BST will not result in a higher risk to human health due to the use of antibiotics to treat mastitis and that the increased potential for drug residues in milk could be managed by practices currently in use by the dairy industry and by following label directions for use.

Another concern the Committee examined involved the risk of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Studies have shown that exposure of human new borns to cow's milk increases the risk of IDDM approximately 1.5-fold. The Committee considered whether exposure of new borns to milk from BST-treated cows might further increase this risk. It concluded that, because of its unchanged composition, the milk of BST-treated cows does not represent an additional risk to the development of IDDM.

JECFA, which met at FAO in Rome from 17 to 26 February 1998 to evaluate certain residues of veterinary drugs in food, had originally stated in 1992 that BST-treated animals and animal products do not pose any risks to humans. JECFA is an independent scientific committee whose recommendations to FAO and WHO are relied upon by governments and international organizations on scientific matters such as food additive safety and usage, tolerable levels of contaminants, or residue levels of veterinary drugs in foods.

The Committee's report will now be considered by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Codex works to harmonize standards used in international trade and to prevent food that is unfit for human consumption from entering commercial channels. It has developed 237 food commodity standards and has established over 40 guidelines and codes for food production and processing.


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The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) Summary and Conclusions may be read on FAO's Website at this address:\WAICENT\FAOINFO\ECONOMIC\ESN\jecfa\jecfa.htm





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