EU pressed to exempt drugs from BSE rules

09 September 1997

EU pressed to exempt drugs from BSE rules

EUROPEAN Union scientists have prevented a potential trade row with the US. They have advised that pharmaceuticals and cosmetics could be exempt from new safety rules designed to curb the spread of BSE.

The scientists finding should also avert a potential shortage of medicines in Europe. The pharmaceutical industry was concerned that supplies would run out if their industry was not granted with an exemption from the rules.

Most pharmaceutical and cosmetic products contain derivatives of tallow or animal fat produced by boiling down whole carcasses – including specified risk materials (SRMs), which will be banned by the EU rules from January next year.

There is now likely to be a formal proposal that pharmaceuticals and cosmetics containing derivatives of tallow carry no risk of transmitting BSE, provided the derivatives are heat-treated according to one of three approved methods.

EU slaughterhouses will still be obliged to remove SRMs by law from January 1 before boiling down carcasses, but the decision by scientists means that US slaughterhouses wont have to adopt the same strict measures.

The US, which has maintained that it should be exempt from the rules from the outset because it is BSE-free, had threatened to appeal to the World Trade Organisation if the EU blocked its pharmaceutical exports which are valued at $4.5 billion (£2.8bn) annually.

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