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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will revisit its preliminary determination that food from cloned animals is safe for consumers after several independent science advisers raised questions about the finding, according to a senior agency official, Reuters reports.
Biotech companies have pressured the agency to declare all meat and milk from cloned animals safe, while consumer groups have expressed concerns that the FDA is moving too fast.
Last week the FDA issued a preliminary summary of a risk analysis concluding that food from cloned animals or their offspring was as safe as conventional food. The full report won't be released for several weeks.
But several members of an FDA advisory panel of independent scientists responded that there was not enough data in the agency's report, especially on cloned pigs, to reach the conclusion that all milk and meat products were safe.
Stephen Sundlof, director of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the agency still believes food from cloned animals is safe, but will review the panel's comments. He added that a final risk assessment, including the panel's comments, is expected to be published early next year.
According to Sundlof, it was unfortunate that the FDA couldn't publish the whole risk analysis before the advisory panel met. "It would have been ideal, I think, if the entire document had been in a condition that it could be published. Unfortunately it wasn't," he said. "I think time will tell whether that was the right decision or not."
Another issue before the FDA, which also regulates veterinary drugs, is whether cloning poses too many health risks for animals.
The FDA report is the first step in a months-long process in deciding whether to allow the commercialization of food from cloned animals. A final policy decision is expected next year.
Consumer groups have slammed the FDA for basing its food safety conclusions on extremely limited scientific data. "This decision is premature," said Gregory Jaffe, biotech director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "They don't have the data yet to support the conclusions that they floated to the public last week."
The emergent biotech industry has voluntarily agreed not to sell any food products from cloned animals until the FDA has made its decision, although livestock has already been cloned for sale to producers.