Bovine growth hormone: human food safety evaluation

Science  24 Aug 1990:
Vol. 249, Issue 4971, pp. 875-884
DOI: 10.1126/science.2203142


Scientists in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after reviewing the scientific literature and evaluating studies conducted by pharmaceutical companies, have concluded that the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) in dairy cattle presents no increased health risk to consumers. Bovine GH is not biologically active in humans, and oral toxicity studies have demonstrated that rbGH is not orally active in rats, a species responsive to parenterally administered bGH. Recombinant bGH treatment produces an increase in the concentration of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) in cow's milk. However, oral toxicity studies have shown that bovine IGF-I lacks oral activity in rats. Additionally, the concentration of IGF-I in milk of rbGH-treated cows is within the normal physiological range found in human breast milk, and IGF-I is denatured under conditions used to process cow's milk for infant formula. On the basis of estimates of the amount of protein absorbed intact in humans and the concentration of IGF-I in cow's milk during rbGH treatment, biologically significant levels of intact IGF-I would not be absorbed.