UK Gelatin Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE, is a degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle causing the brain to appear as a sponge. The cattle then begin acting abnormally and eventually have to be killed. BSE can be transmitted to humans if they consume raw meat from an infected cow or if one consumes the eyeballs, spinal tissue, or the brain. This disease is known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Another disease similar to BSE, which is found in sheep, is Scrapie. Scrapie has been around for nearly two hundred years.

It is presumed that the Scrapie agent jumped species and moved into cattle when sheep offal, leftover parts of butchered animals, were ground up and used as a protein supplement in cattle feed and the subsequently fed to cattle. Gelatin is considered safe for human consumption since its preparation involves a chemical process that destroys BSE infectivity. BSE-infectiousness is also destroyed during cooking and baking. Gelatin is manufactured primarily from the hides of pigs and the bones of cattle. During processing, these source materials are exposed to extremely harsh conditions, including prolonged exposure to highly acid or alkaline solutions. Gelatin is used in a wide variety of consumer and medical products regulated by the FDA.

These products range from candies and desserts to vaccines, drugs, medical devices, dietary supplements and cosmetics. In the unlikely event of any initial contamination of raw material, the gelatin manufacturing process would reduce BSE activity. The steps are as follows one hundred times by degreasing, ten times by acid demineralization, one hundred times by alkaline purification, one hundred times by washing, filtration, and ion exchange, and one hundred times by sterilization. Therefore, the combined effect of the processing stages gives a person a one in one billion chance of contracting BSE. The gelatin production process is efficient enough to remove and or inactivate minimal remaining infectivity. As a safety precaution, the use of UK bovine raw material for the manufacture of gelatin for food, animal feed, pharmaceutical, medical and cosmetic uses is not permitted under certain UK and EU legislation.

All UK produced bone gelatin intended for these uses is made from non-UK raw materials. The UK manufacturing sites have to be registered with the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods (MAFF) and regular inspections confirm that strict controls are met. These controls include full trace ability of raw materials. Consequently, UK produced bone gelatin can be considered to be the best controlled and monitored of any gelatin produced in the world, providing maximum reassurance to consumers. Gelatin and collagen can be made from UK bovine raw materials for technical uses in the UK, and can be exported for technical uses.

All exported gelatin must be labeled to show the establishment of production and that it is unsuitable for use in human food, animal feed, cosmetics, medical or pharmaceutical products. No guidelines are set on the use or export of non-bovine gelatin or collagen from UK materials. UK gelatin and collagen cannot be produced for non-technical uses. Foreign gelatin and collagen may be used and exported for non-technical purposes under certain conditions.

About sixty five percent of the world wide produced gelatin comes from hide splits, the bones of cattle, and connective tissue. Also, pigs serve as a main source of material. Only sheep are used to produce gelatin in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The quality of the gelatin is influenced by the source of the supply. In Europe, this is mainly from pigs for producing gelatin for food and medications.

Hide splits, bones, and connective tissue from infected animals are far less infectious than the central nervous system. However, as long as the agents are not definitely identified and not detectable by any sensitive test, so no tissue or body liquid can be declared free of infectivity. Skin and bones from infected animals must also be assumed to be infectious, because they are well supplied with blood and nerves. The infectivity of blood was discovered in 1962 in a goat and among humans in 1992. The ten to fifteen kilograms of raw material from one cow disappears in twenty thousand to one hundred thousand kilograms of material during production. It is then diluted to one-tenth concentration with other gelatin to reach the final product.

Therefore, the agent is certainly diluted largely, but at the same time, it is distributed to a very large number of products. Our group sent Altoids an e-mail and asked if cow brains, spinal cord tissue, or eyes are used to produce the gelatin in Altoids. They responded with "Altoids contain very small quantities of gelatin which is derived from pork. The gelatin is thoroughly purified and dried during its manufacturing process. While gelatin does not impact any flavor in our Altoids, it's a necessary ingredient for the texture of the mint."We " ve tried to substitute gelatin with a seaweed-based product (Agar) but this produced substantially less than satisfactory results. We " re continuing to try and find an alternative to animal gelatin, but at the moment we don't know if and when this may happen." Raw material and hide material are almost definitely not infectious and it is extremely unlikely that hides would become cross-contaminated by infectious animals.

The raw materials used in gelatin production come only from animals inspected by veterinarians and passed fit for human consumption. Apart from the natural safety of the raw materials, gelatin production is a highly refined, purified process, which would provide additional safeguards if they were required. This includes several production stages, which both serve to physically remove contamination and provide a destructive effect on the BSE agent if it were conceivably present. The World Health Organization has concluded that gelatin is safe to eat and there is no threat whatsoever of contracting the BSE virus. All gelatin producers use exclusively non-UK raw materials for gelatin in food, animal feed, and for medical and cosmetic use.