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From: TSS (
Subject: Mad cow disease a fodder for capsule industry
Date: October 24, 2004 at 1:30 pm PST

Mad cow disease a fodder for capsule industry

P.T. Jyothi Datta
Dinesh Narayan

Mumbai , Oct. 24

ONE man's poison is not just another man's meat, but also his bread and butter! Or so it seems for the Indian capsules industry, where the fear of "mad cow" disease stalking global markets has increased demand for vegetarian and "BSE/TSE free" capsules.

`Bovine spongiform encephalopathy' (BSE), popularly known as the mad cow disease, had in the past put the fear of food in the European markets. BSE is one of a number of `transmissible spongiform encephalopathies' (TSE) — a family of diseases in humans and animals characterised by sponge-like lesions in the brain.

With regulated markets like Europe and now the US tightening the noose on food and drugs, traceability (documenting the source of ingredients in a food or drug) has assumed importance, say drug industry representatives.

The empty hard shell of a capsule used in the pharmaceutical and food-supplements industry is largely made of gelatin got from cow bones and skin. "When companies make a new drug application in the US market, they have to give details on the source of the gelatine. The capsule supplier also has to give a certificate stating adherence to the World Health Organisation standards in this regard," said an official with Associated Capsules.

"India is perceived as being BSE-free. So an opportunity has emerged in Europe and the US for BSE/ TSE-free capsules. Vegetarian capsules, from plant sources, also have an opportunity, but they are five times the cost of a gelatin capsule," he said.

"The mad cow disease started in Europe about two years ago. But with similar incidents being reported in the US recently, a large export opportunity has opened up for the Indian capsule makers. Our cow population is safe, since they consume grass and not food containing animal ingredients (which reportedly triggered the mad-cow disease). The market for vegetarian capsules is nascent but it could see expansion in Europe and the US," says Mr Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Bharti Enterprises.

Bharti Healthcare expects to clock exports of 35 per cent of production, this year, Mr Mittal told Business Line. Bharti is scaling-up production to five billion capsules per annum.

Industry estimates put the global market for gelatine capsules in excess of 230 billion. The US market is estimated at 70 billion capsules. Further, Indian capsules offer a price advantage at $2 per 1,000 capsules, as compared to global rates of about $6 per 1,000 capsules, industry officials said.

Also seizing the opportunity is Natural Capsules, which is doubling capacity to about 3,400 million capsules per year. "Australian and New Zealand markets are interested in vegetarian capsules for their nutraceuticals and dietary supplements segment. One-fourth of the food-supplements market uses vegetarian capsules," says Mr Sunil Mundhra, Managing Director, Natural Capsules.


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