Illness Linked to Pig Brains

Slaughterhouse workers report burning, numbness, weakness in limbs
By Laurel Jorgensen,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2008 9:41 AM CST
Health investigators think a new illness may be caused by inhaling pig brains on the meatpacking line.   (Flickr)
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(Newser) – A dozen workers at a Minnesota slaughterhouse are showing symptoms of a new illness linked to inhaling bits of pig brains, the Washington Post reports. Symptoms include sensations of burning, numbness, and weakness in the arms and legs. All of the afflicted worked at or near the Austin packing house’s “head table,” where compressed air was used to remove pigs’ brains.

Investigators say the process of “blowing brains” produces microscopic pieces of brain matter small enough to inhale. If a worker breathes in the material, the immune system attacks pig matter but also hurts human nerve tissue. The Minnesota plant and two others have stopped using the technique to prepare pig heads. CSC officials are investigating other possible cases at an Indiana plant.