Britain’s local authorities are investigating reports that cow urine – believed by a section of Indians to have medicinal and purification properties – is being sold in shops that stock food items on the same shelf or nearby shelves.
Selling cow urine as a food item in the European Union is prohibited. The EU also banned the sale of Ayurvedic and other herbal medicines in 2011.
A Food Standards Agency spokesperson told Hindustan Times on Friday: “EU law considers the urine and faeces of farmed animals as ‘animal by-products’ (ABP) and these cannot enter the food chain.
“If cows’ urine were to be placed on the market as a food in the EU, it is likely it would be considered a ‘novel food’, which is defined as a food that has not been consumed to any significant degree in the EU before May 1997.
“If it were considered a novel food, its marketing in the EU would be prohibited until a safety assessment had been undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority and the foodstuff cleared.”
However, the spokesperson added urine applied externally, for example to daub the skin, would not be considered food and its marketing would not fall under food law although other legislation could apply.
Cow urine is sold in shops and temples in areas with a large number of residents of Indian origin, such as some boroughs of London and cities such as Leicester, Manchester and Birmingham.
New Gokul, a farm in Hertfordshire run by the Hare Krishna temple in Watford, produces urine for worshippers. Its managing director, Gauri Das, told BBC that it has been selling cow urine since the early 1970s.
“There has been a demand from the South Asian background. They use it for puja, medicinal purposes or even cleaning in order to purify things. I don’t sell it (cow urine) for human consumption. It is down to the worshipper to do what they want with it,” he said.
The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health said: “If cow urine is on sale for human consumption, the business must be able to prove it is safe. If the business cannot prove the product is safe then it must not be on sale. We would strongly advise not to sell cow urine where food is present.”