Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Inhaling pig brains may be cause of new Illness.

A new disease has surfaced in 12 people among the 1,300 employees at the factory run by Quality Pork Processors about 100 miles south of Minneapolis. The ailment is characterized by sensations of burning, numbness and weakness in the arms and legs. For most, this is unpleasant but not disabling. For a few, however, the ailment has made walking difficult and work impossible. The symptoms have slowly lessened in severity, but in none of the sufferers has it disappeared completely. The packing house slaughters 1,900 pigs a day. The 12 sufferers of the neurological illness all work at or near the "head table" where the animals' severed heads are processed. One of the steps in that part of the operation involves removing the pigs' brains with compressed air forced into the skull through the hole where the spinal cord enters. The brains are then packed and sent to markets in Korea and China as food. Investigators say there is no reason to suspect that either the brains or the pork cuts were contaminated. Their working hypothesis is that the harvesting technique -- known as "blowing brains" on the floor -- produces aerosols of brain matter. Once inhaled, the material prompts the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the pig brain compounds, but apparently also attack the body's own nerve tissue because it is so similar. Source: Washington Post

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