Mad Cow Candy?

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New York health officials are investigating sales of a candy that was pulled from stores in Poland because one of its ingredients may have been made from beef in a country that has had an outbreak of mad cow disease.

The distributor of the Mamba fruit chew, made in Germany, insists it poses no health risks even though it contains a beef-based gelatin. The company, Storck U.S.A., said it had no plans to change the ingredients of the Mamba sold in the United States.

"The product is safe," Storck vice president Tony Nelson said from the company's Chicago office. The company said German health officials have certified its beef gelatin as properly prepared for human consumption.

There was no immediate indication whether Mamba is sold elsewhere in the United States.

The candy, which comes 18 pieces to a 75-cent pack in lemon, orange, raspberry and strawberry flavors, is sold throughout the city, a New York newspaper reported Tuesday.

"Obviously, we will look into it," city Health Department spokeswoman Sandra Mullin said. "People should not panic. We have not had animal or human cases of mad cow disease in New York or in the United States."

The candy is marketed in 80 countries by the Storck Co., of Werther, Germany.

Germany discovered its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, late last year in a cow. At least 18 others have been infected.

Storck recalled the candy in Poland last week after health officials there banned beef products from countries with confirmed cases of mad cow disease.

The company said it would eliminate the gelatin only from Mamba distributed in Poland.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not received any alerts about the candy, the newspaper said, quoting a spokeswoman as saying: "Just because it's a bovine source doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem."

BSE is believed to be spread through livestock feed made from infected animals.

As a precaution, the U.S. government has banned cows and sheep from being given feed made from animal parts.

The human version of the disease, called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob, has killed some 80 Europeans since the mid-190s, mostly in Britain. The disease first appeared in 1984 in a cow in Britain thought to have eaten feed that included offal from sheep that harbored scrapie, a similar illness.

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