Which Intestines for Food and Cosmetics?

Which Intestines for Food and Cosmetics?
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The FDA appears to have caved in to industry pressure in allowing intestines potentially infected with mad cow disease prions into food products and lipstick.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The Food and Drug Administration recently reopened comments about their policy of allowing some intestines, but not others, into the U.S. food supply. When the first few cases of mad cow disease started popping up, the FDA’s gut reaction was to ban all guts from food and personal care products. But, in 2005, USDA and FDA amended their draft rule to “permit the use of the entire small intestine for human food” if the last 80 uncoiled inches going to the colon was removed. Since then, though, studies have shown that infectious mad cow prions can be found throughout all parts of the intestine, from the stomach down to the cow’s colon—raising the question of whether all entrails should again be removed.

The North American Meat Association says no, wanting to keep cattle insides inside the food supply, similar to what we heard from the CTFA—the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. They protested that by banning from cosmetics downer and dead cattle, as well as “brain, skull, eyes, [and] spinal cords,” as well as “intestine[s] and tonsils,” our nation’s supply of cosmetics could be put in jeopardy. There could be a tallow shortage for soap, for example. The FDA may not realize that cosmetics and personal care products are a quarter-trillion dollar industry worldwide.

In the end, the FDA tentatively concluded that intestines should continue to be allowed in the food and cosmetic supply, because only trace amounts of infectivity have been found throughout the bowels of cattle—a conclusion they have to make, since, otherwise, all meat would have to be banned as well, because new research shows that mad cow infectivity is in the muscles, too. And, not just the atypical cases of BSE, like the last mad cow found in California, but now we know, the typical BSE as well—bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). Low levels of infectious prions have been found in the ribs, shoulders, tenderloins, sirloin tips, and round cuts of meat.

The latest estimates out of Britain suggest 15,000 people are currently incubating the human form of mad cow disease, contracted through the consumption of infected meat. Fewer than 200 Brits have died so far of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, but the incubation period for this invariably fatal neurodegenerative disease can be decades—the time between eating the meat, and one’s brain filling up with holes.

The fact that so many people are carrying it has important implications for the safety of blood transfusions—that’s why many Americans who’ve lived in England are barred by the Red Cross from donating blood, as well as the safety of handling surgical instruments that may have cut into someone who’s a carrier, since it’s so hard to sterilize anything, once contaminated.

Given these factors, it may be prudent to err on the side of caution when regulating which intestines are allowed on and in our mouths. But, it’s a balance. As one meat company points out, guts are not just used for lipstick, “intestine is…human food, “providing us with [a] precious source of protein which is [evidently] essential for our human population.”

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The Food and Drug Administration recently reopened comments about their policy of allowing some intestines, but not others, into the U.S. food supply. When the first few cases of mad cow disease started popping up, the FDA’s gut reaction was to ban all guts from food and personal care products. But, in 2005, USDA and FDA amended their draft rule to “permit the use of the entire small intestine for human food” if the last 80 uncoiled inches going to the colon was removed. Since then, though, studies have shown that infectious mad cow prions can be found throughout all parts of the intestine, from the stomach down to the cow’s colon—raising the question of whether all entrails should again be removed.

The North American Meat Association says no, wanting to keep cattle insides inside the food supply, similar to what we heard from the CTFA—the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. They protested that by banning from cosmetics downer and dead cattle, as well as “brain, skull, eyes, [and] spinal cords,” as well as “intestine[s] and tonsils,” our nation’s supply of cosmetics could be put in jeopardy. There could be a tallow shortage for soap, for example. The FDA may not realize that cosmetics and personal care products are a quarter-trillion dollar industry worldwide.

In the end, the FDA tentatively concluded that intestines should continue to be allowed in the food and cosmetic supply, because only trace amounts of infectivity have been found throughout the bowels of cattle—a conclusion they have to make, since, otherwise, all meat would have to be banned as well, because new research shows that mad cow infectivity is in the muscles, too. And, not just the atypical cases of BSE, like the last mad cow found in California, but now we know, the typical BSE as well—bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). Low levels of infectious prions have been found in the ribs, shoulders, tenderloins, sirloin tips, and round cuts of meat.

The latest estimates out of Britain suggest 15,000 people are currently incubating the human form of mad cow disease, contracted through the consumption of infected meat. Fewer than 200 Brits have died so far of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, but the incubation period for this invariably fatal neurodegenerative disease can be decades—the time between eating the meat, and one’s brain filling up with holes.

The fact that so many people are carrying it has important implications for the safety of blood transfusions—that’s why many Americans who’ve lived in England are barred by the Red Cross from donating blood, as well as the safety of handling surgical instruments that may have cut into someone who’s a carrier, since it’s so hard to sterilize anything, once contaminated.

Given these factors, it may be prudent to err on the side of caution when regulating which intestines are allowed on and in our mouths. But, it’s a balance. As one meat company points out, guts are not just used for lipstick, “intestine is…human food, “providing us with [a] precious source of protein which is [evidently] essential for our human population.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the FDA has caved to industry pressures. See, for example:

As scary as rare infections like mad cow disease are, we are much more likely to be disabled or killed by more conventional foodborne pathogens, such as bacteria. See, for example:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

34 responses to “Which Intestines for Food and Cosmetics?

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  1. Two thoughts:
    I suppose as per usual, one should consider carefully who they are kissing because they may be using prion infected lipstick or lip balm. It would seem that cruelty is the gift that keeps on giving so choose cruelty free products.

    “[G]uts are not just used for lipstick, “intestine is…human food, “providing us with [a] precious source of protein which is [evidently] essential for our human population.”” — Intestines are a precious source of protein?
    Really? Nothing says you’re a high roller like serving your guests hot dogs and sausages wrapped in natural casings. Not!




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  2. Thank you Dr Greger. What a dirty business it all is.. the politics I mean. As an aside, this website has compiled a large list of cruelty-free and vegan brands for cosmetics. https://logicalharmony.net/cruelty-free-vegan-brand-list/ The Environmental Working Group has also maintained an extensive website including make up and personal care items with details on ingredients safety. They also note when a product is vegan/cruelty free when possible.




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  3. I wish this included which lipsticks use intestines in their products. All of them? I saw the link another person posted above, but that list includes almost all cosmetic brands. It feels overwhelming to be told that ALL of my cosmetics are harmful. Is there anyone who actually tests the specific brands? I’m already familiar with EWG, but it would be nice to have more detailed results for certain brands, especially around prions.




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    1. Emily, the link I posted above to logicalharmony.net is for a list of cruelty free brands. The names listed in bold type are also vegan. There are many brands listed to choose from, high-end products to drug store and department store brands. For myself personally, I clear out old/outdated products regularly and have made a point of purchasing only vegan/cruelty free products going forward. Its a managable solution for me. I include a few brands in my supplies, and there are more product lines becoming available all the time.

      I dont know about the prion issue , but if you select vegan products (incorporating no animal products in their formulas) then you’re good to go. Also, EWG does display analysis of ingredients for each item within a given product line… its a tremendous resource. Use the search function on the website to find info on specific individual products. Hope this helps a bit !




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    2. There is a company called Beautycounter and they are leading the industry in safety and performance. They are EwG verified and their lipsticks are gorgeous! You can contact me with you want more information or look them up online.




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  4. Great piece of investigative reporting!

    Our Agriculture industry and our Sickness Care system is deplorable and absolutely depressing. And all for the sake of financial gain!

    What happened to Peace, Love and Understanding? (Rhetorical question)




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  5. This video triggered my curiosity on BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) which is transmitted via infected material from cows. This led me to a PubMed series of papers on a subject new to me. Apparently, approximately 3% of the public is allergic to red meat and, a portion of them, to the gelatin products made from red meat. Red meat, in the articles I came across, included beef, lamb, pork, kangaroo, and horse. A red meat allergy can occur even after a lifetime of eating meat. The allergic response can include anything from mild allergic symptoms to full blown and life-threatening anaphylactic shock and, if severe enough, death. Three percent of the population is quite a few people. And this topic started me wondering about the less severe sequaele of allergies which can be simple inflammation. A hypothesis could be made that the generalized inflammation of today’s disease states could partly or wholly be a result of low-level allergies to animal proteins. Bovine – cow – milk is a widely known and accepted allergen. Why not the rest of the animal?
    Just a thought . . . .




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    1. hi BigGregerFan , http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/cosmet-person/hot-list-critique/hotlist-liste-eng.php#i1 this is the list for here in canada.. If you check under “bovine,” you will see what is banned here and what isnt. Tallow and geletin for example is permitted, but small intestines are not. There is a link for the european laws here http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/regulations/international-laws/. Europe banned animal testing for cosmetic ingredients in march of 2013 too




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        1. From what I gather, animal testing for cosmetics is not required by law nor encouraged http://cfhs.ca/research/cosmetic_testing/ China does require testing, so while a company in north america may claim ‘no animal testing’ , it turns out they can be selling product to china, and paying for their products to be tested there. Choosing products that are certified cruelty-free would be a way to avoid supporting those companies.




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  6. I eat Vegan for a variety of reasons but this is not one of them. As of last July the CDC reported four human cases in the United States. All four had lived abroad during the defined period of risk. I could care less about the cosmetics industry but really, has anyone demonstrated any significant risk from cosmetics or even food? As best I can tell, the risk is entirely hypothetical and when it comes to health issues, we have far bigger fish to fry.




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    1. What about a risk from endoscopic procedures? Is there a risk? I happened to see the instruction manual of such an endoscope and it says on the front page in large letters that “Decontamination from prions cannot be guaranteed” (or something like that).




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      1. Hi Mick,
        I am one of the site moderators. As with all things there are risks and endoscopy does have a few. I have not heard about the prions but I suppose it could be possible as they are hard to kill and although the scopes are put into a decontamination solution after every patient I know there are small spaces where there have been reports of pathogens that were passed between patients. Extremely, extremely rare but not unheard of. The prions that cause mad cow disease are primarily transmitted from animals with the disease. One could get a prion from someone suffering from mad cow but since it is so incredibly rare and the life expectancy low to the point they would probably not be a candidate for an endoscopy.




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  7. Dr. Geiger, I always enjoy watching your excellent videos on YouTube and recommend them to others here in Indonesia, where awareness of the matters you discuss is depressingly low.

    Just over three years ago I stopped all dairy products, with the exception of the occasional cappuccino or slice of pizze, and have felt immensely freer-breathing since then. Coughing up much less mucous as well, and rarely have nasal stoppage. I also read that dairy has become a suspect in adult tumor development, the theory (in short) being that the same hormones that stimulate growth in kids can stimulate cancer.

    The BSE matter is no joke and while it is rare it is 100% and a very awful way to die. More than ever people have to get away from the idea that you need meat to survive. Someday it will be as quaint and obsolete as going to the barber to get bled.




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  8. Some of you may be interested in the work of Dr. Stanley Prusiner, he coined the term “prions” and continues to do research on them at UCSF. From the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, “Prusiner proposed that the more common neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases may be caused by prions. Remarkably, a wealth of evidence continues to accumulate arguing that prions cause not only these common degenerative diseases, but also ALS, the frontotemporal dementias (FTDs), chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and multiple system atrophy (MSA).” Sickening that the human race has allowed this to happen. Many people do not know that wild deer (and other wild ungulate populations) in the western states (possibly the whole continent, but I haven’t read that) are also infected with a form of BSE that was contracted from interaction with fenced populations of deer and elk that had been fed commercial feeds contaminated with prions. Many people also do not realize that the restrictions on which body parts can be fed to dairy and beef bovines does not apply to chickens, pigs, and pet food. Pretty easy to see how these same prions have now escaped into the wild, infecting carnivorous wildlife that eat pet food left outside for dogs and cats. Ok, let’s face it, we are doomed. What a mess we have made of this planet and we really don’t deserve to live in this beautiful, amazing place. We humans are the stupidest species on the planet.




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  9. My uncle died several years ago from this disease, he was a healthy 74 year old, in good shape, exercised, watched his cholesterol, etc. This disease is extremely rare, and we never did find out how exactly he contracted it, but it was surmised it was from eye surgery several years before. We live in Baltimore, and he had not been out of the country.




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  10. Wondering about ALS and the connection to mad cow disease, especially since I lost my beautiful sister in law to ALS. I am interested in the research referenced above.




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  11. We often see news about the rising rate of dementia among the elderly in the U.S., and the news reports it as “Alzheimer’s”. I’ve long wondered if we’re actually seeing mad cow disease’s incubation period coming to fruition in many of these elderly patients instead — CJD not Alzheimer’s. I’ve read that the symptoms can be so similar that only an autopsy can tell the difference — when an “Alzheimer’s” patient dies of natural causes, there’s no reason to perform one. Could it be that a some of those “Alzheimer’s” patients might really have undiagnosed CJD?




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  12. It’s also distressing to think of all the women injecting animal products into their faces. Collagen is a bovine product, hyaluronic acid is made from rooster combs, and there is a suspicious dearth of information on all of this stuff. When there is so much money to be made, there is good reason to question the overwhelmingly positive info available.




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  13. Gahhh the new website is awful. The old website was refined and established. The new website looks like a pre-bought template. The icons above the sources cited and acknowledgements are not even centred correctly. What’s with the blue? Nutrition facts is green.

    Changing a website for the purpose of change is not a good enough reason. Unless you have a data showing you that an upgrade is needed to enhance user experience then do not change.

    I used to enjoy being on this site, now it annoys me because its hard to look at.




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  14. So, if many people are carrying the prions without even knowing it, and they are “incubating” for decades… do they ever disappear or do they just stay in you forever? I personally don’t know much about this topic, but it struck me as an interesting question because I travel a lot and used to eat meat (over 6 years ago I became vegetarian). Obviously not all people carrying it develop the disease, or everyone would be sick… but I wonder if there are more subtle effects over time.

    Also, aside from all the discussion about the prions… it’s just plain gross that they use intestines in makeup, period. I was equally horrified when I found out about gelatin (being made from skin, horns, cartilage and bones) and the fact that it’s used in most candy bars. Not that we should be eating candy bars anyway… but it’s the thought that bothers me… that all this is put into products we buy. And this is why I now try to make most my meals at home… at least that way I know what’s in it!




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  15. All dry fruits are rich in vegetable protein, fibre, heart healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, natural plant sterols and a host of beneficial plant nutrients. 30-35g a day of Dry Fruits (a handful) has the potential to lower cholesterol.




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