Sign the Petition:
Search OCA:
Get Local!

Find Local News, Events & Green Businesses on OCA's State Pages:

OCA News Sections

Organic Consumers Association

Outbreak of Mysterious Pig Brain Disease at Slaughterhouse Mystifies Investigators

An illness among workers at pig slaughterhouses had the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) worried, and it has begun investigating the mystery ailment.  The new disease has surfaced in 12 of 1,300 employees at the Quality Pork Processors factory near Minneapolis.  Patients complain of burning sensations, numbness, and weakness in the arms and legs.  For some, walking is difficult and work impossible and, while symptoms have slowly lessened in severity in some, it has not completely disappeared in any of the patients.

The CDC and they are looking into about 25 other large-scale pig slaughterhouses in 13 states to locate other cases. CDC investigators believe they found a few more at an Indiana slaughterhouse, one of only two places other than the Minnesota plant that use compressed air to empty pig skulls.  All three establishments have ceased that activity.

The illness is similar to some known conditions, but is not an exact match to any, nor is its cause.  The ailment-tentatively being called "progressive inflammatory neuropathy"-resembles Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune condition that sometimes follows fairly benign infections, particularly those caused by an intestinal bacterium called Campylobacter.  In the Minnesota  cases no germ is involved.  Apparently, the seemingly new illness is a result of inhaling microscopic flecks of pig brain.  "This appears to be something new," Minnesota's state epidemiologist, Ruth Lynfield, said last week.

Before it closed, the Minnesota packinghouse slaughtered 1,900 pigs a day, working two meat-cutting shifts and one clean-up shift.  Virtually every part of the pig was used, including ears, entrails, and bone.  The 12 Quality Pork workers stricken with the neurological illness are mostly Hispanic immigrants and all work at or near the "head table" where the animals' severed heads are processed.  One of the steps in the process involves removing the pigs' brains with compressed air forced into the skull through the spinal cord entrance.  Brains are then packed and sent to markets in Korea and China as food.

Investigators do not believe the meat was contaminated and have theorized that the harvesting technique-"blowing brains" on the floor-produces aerosols of brain matter.  Once the matter is inhaled, the body's immune system produces antibodies that attack the brain compounds.  Apparently, the antibodies also attack the body's own nerve tissue because of its similarity to that of the pig.

In November 2006, a worker came down with fever, malaise and rapidly progressing weakness. When he was admitted to a Rochester hospital he was unable to walk.  Weeks, or possibly months before, he was assigned the job of "blowing brains" on one of the shifts.  Like many of the subsequent patients, he had evidence in his bloodstream and spinal fluid of inflammation and was given high-dose intravenous steroids, as is common for similar conditions.  Over the course of a few months he regained most of his function, but the cause of the problem remained unknown.  In April, he returned to work at the head table.  Within two months, he developed widespread pain and sensation or weakness.  He was taken off work in June and recovered over the summer, returning to the plant in September.  By November, his painful symptoms returned. 

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

chubby
post Feb 12 2008, 08:21 PM



I would be curious to know if the workers had any "mandatory" vaccines that were required around this same time period?

Are they "required" to spray any particular chemicals meant to "sanatize" the area or the pigs.

I never thought I'd be a vegetarian, but it's headed that way!

diana
post Feb 12 2008, 08:33 PM


You're certainly welcome to vegetarianism; I was for many years. But it's not an either/or re: factory farmed meat vs. vegan/tarianism. You can probably find humanely raised meats that aren't laden with antibiotics (and new, eerie strains of superbugs) and are fed real feed. Check out Sustainable Table, among other places, for stuff in your area. Good luck, or good veggie times, either way. --diana

El Lechero
post Feb 12 2008, 08:47 PM


Diana is right on this one. There are plenty of responsible meat producers out there, and taking the reactionary extreme and totally eliminating meat from your diet will harm the responsible ones more than the big corporate criminals. Imagine how different things would be if we took all the time, labor and money spent on anti-meat and anti-milk campaigns and trying to get more legislation and regulations and just sought out and supported the people who are doing things responsibly?


MarinaSnow
post Feb 12 2008, 09:14 PM


QUOTE (chubby @ Feb 12 2008, 02:21 PM) *
I never thought I'd be a vegetarian, but it's headed that way!

All conscious humans should cut way down on their meat intake. The amount of fuel used to transport animals around, and to deliver the meat once the animal has been slaughtered, is enough reason to cut down.

These pigs could have been fed diseased parts of other pigs, I was told that this is what causes Mad Cow Disease (the feeding of diseased animals to cows).

No matter what, the slaughter of an animal is inhumane, they suffer. And from what I have been told, when the babies are taken from a mother cow, the cries of the mother are horrific.

We humans need to become more HUMANE and stop our overindulgences. dry.gif

El Lechero
post Feb 13 2008, 12:23 AM


QUOTE (MarinaSnow @ Feb 12 2008, 04:14 PM) *
The amount of fuel used to transport animals around, and to deliver the meat once the animal has been slaughtered, is enough reason to cut down.


Seems to me like this is more of an argument to eat locally produced meat that hasn't been hauled all over hell and creation than it is an argument to cut back or quit eating meat. Not all meat travels hundreds or thousands of miles from pasture to plate, and I would argue that no meat should. Boycotting well-traveled meat is fine, but likewise support responsible producers (If you choose to eat meat, that is).


QUOTE
No matter what, the slaughter of an animal is inhumane, they suffer. And from what I have been told, when the babies are taken from a mother cow, the cries of the mother are horrific.


Another blanket statement. Not all slaughter is inhumane, but it seems that the sensationalized images of slaughter some people carry in their minds lead them to believe so. When most people think of slaughter, they see blood and immediately associate that with pain and suffering which isn't always the case. I've personally slaughtered or seen slaughtered many bison and cattle that never even knew what was happening to them. It can be done, and I would argue that it should be done, always. I agree that weaning calves too early sometimes creates too much stress on both calf and cow, which is why I leave calves on their mothers, even if they are milk cows, as long as possible. Believe me, when you wean a 500-lb. calf off a momma cow, she's glad to have that calf gone. You should do some research on across-fence weaning. Many ranchers practice this, I know Joel Salatin advocates it. No true rancher--that is, a rancher committed to producing a high-quality product--unneccessarily stresses their animals, as stress severely affects meat quality (mostly taste). My advice is, if you want to really find out about animal behavior, their lives and deaths, ask a rancher, then ask an animal-rights activist, and see which one seems to really know what they're talking about. Too many people believe what they've heard, especially if it reaffirms their feelings of moral superiority.

QUOTE
We humans need to become more HUMANE and stop our overindulgences. dry.gif


Yes, and one of those overindulgences is thinking that we'ere the eyes, ears, mind and mouthpiece of the universe. We're creatures on this earth like many others. Inhumanity is a human concept.


MarinaSnow
post Feb 13 2008, 12:40 AM


QUOTE (El Lechero @ Feb 12 2008, 06:23 PM) *
Not all slaughter is inhumane, but it seems that the sensationalized images of slaughter some people carry in their minds lead them to believe so. When most people think of slaughter, they see blood and immediately associate that with pain and suffering which isn't always the case. I've personally slaughtered or seen slaughtered many bison and cattle that never even knew what was happening to them.

So no one has to tie or hold the animal down? If so, the animal suffers. They go through fear and feeling entrapped. Or are they shot first?

QUOTE
... ask a rancher, then ask an animal-rights activist, and see which one seems to really know what they're talking about. Too many people believe what they've heard, especially if it reaffirms their feelings of moral superiority.

A rancher is the person that I heard this from, and it did not give me any feeling of "moral superiority." On the contrary, it made me ashamed to be a human being.

QUOTE (El Lechero @ Feb 12 2008, 06:23 PM) *
Yes, and one of those overindulgences is thinking that we'ere the eyes, ears, mind and mouthpiece of the universe. We're creatures on this earth like many others. Inhumanity is a human concept.

We are to be stewards of the animals and the earth, not to be tormentors, torturers, and destroyers.

It sounds like you are trying to stop people from eating less meat because you might have an interest in the business.

El Lechero
post Feb 13 2008, 01:09 AM


QUOTE (MarinaSnow @ Feb 12 2008, 07:40 PM) *
So no one has to tie or hold the animal down? If so, the animal suffers. They go through fear and feeling entrapped. Or are they shot first?


No, you don't hold down a 1,200-lb. animal. Yes, shooting is one possible way.


QUOTE
A rancher is the person that I heard this from, and it did not give me any feeling of "moral superiority." On the contrary, it made me ashamed to be a human being.


I didn't mean that killing animals or taking baby calves away from their mothers gives you a sense of moral superiority, and I was speaking hypothetically about "people," not neccessarily you. If you're ashamed to be a human being, I don't know what to tell you, other than that maybe you feel unneccessarily guilty about things you haven't neccessarily caused.


QUOTE
We are to be stewards of the animals and the earth, not to be tormentors, torturers, and destroyers.


I completely agree with this statement, which is why I work as hard as I can to raise the healthiest, happiest, most comfortable cattle possible.

QUOTE
It sounds like you are trying to stop people from eating less meat because you might have an interest in the business.


I'm not trying to stop people from eating less meat. As I said in the earlier post, just don't lump all meat production into the categories of "inhumane," "unsustainable," "polluting," or any other negative blanket word that doesn't apply to all methods of meat production. I couldn't care less if you quit eating meat altogether if you want to, just don't blame it on people like me who don't torment and torture animals. Yes, I do have an interest in the business of providing the healthiest, best-tasting, most humanely produced meat and milk for anyone who values such and wishes to participate in a sustainable food production system. Others who "have an interest" in this type of thing, whether meat producers, vegetable growers or any other food producers are who will be feeding people, or teaching them how to feed themselves, in the future, if we can get past the present, when not only are we under attack by corporate agri-criminals and their government cronies, but apparently also by the people we're trying to help.

MarinaSnow
post Feb 13 2008, 01:34 AM


QUOTE
No, you don't hold down a 1,200-lb. animal. Yes, shooting is one possible way.

And when the animal is shot, can you guarantee that the bullet will kill them instantly?

QUOTE
If you're ashamed to be a human being, I don't know what to tell you, other than that maybe you feel unneccessarily guilty about things you haven't neccessarily caused.

I wasn't seeking advice, but I equate my feelings with a conscience, not guilt.

QUOTE
I completely agree with this statement, which is why I work as hard as I can to raise the healthiest, happiest, most comfortable cattle possible.

So you raise cattle. Then you must know how the animal is restrained prior to being killed. You mentioned that shooting the animal is "one way," what are other ways?

QUOTE
Others who "have an interest" in this type of thing, whether meat producers, vegetable growers or any other food producers are who will be feeding people, or teaching them how to feed themselves, in the future, if we can get past the present, when not only are we under attack by corporate agri-criminals and their government cronies, but apparently also by the people we're trying to help.

Who is attacking you that you are "trying to help?"

wolfinillois
post Feb 13 2008, 02:38 AM


May I suggest that you all Google 'Temple Grandin'...no it's not a church:) Temple Grandin is a woman who has spent her life designing humane slaughter methods. And no, that is not an oxymoron. All of life is connected, and if the meat that I eat is raised and slaughtered in the best way possible, and if I honor the creature that I'm eating, I feel no guilt for my eating choices. Small aside, in the harvesting of all those lovely vegetarian grains thousands of small creatures often get chopped up by the harvest machines.


--------------------
we are all a part of the web, what we do to the web, we do to ourselves

El Lechero
post Feb 13 2008, 03:07 AM


QUOTE (MarinaSnow @ Feb 12 2008, 08:34 PM) *
And when the animal is shot, can you guarantee that the bullet will kill them instantly?


No, I can't "guarantee" anything, and killing them isn't the object. Their consciousness of suffering is what I believe you were alluding to earlier, thus unconsciousness would render suffering impossible.


QUOTE
I wasn't seeking advice, but I equate my feelings with a conscience, not guilt.


I guess I was misinterpreting the term "ashamed," which in my dictionary is a synonym for "guilt," as in "a guilty conscience," but fair enough. It's your language, too. Use it however you want. I wasn't offering advice, merely making a comment in the form of a statement. If I were offering ("offering" as in "volunteered," therefore "not sought," and not a burnt sacrifice of a lamb, dove, or your firstborn child) advice (yes, yes, I know you're not "seeking" it--I'll remind myself this time, thanks) I would say, fine, feel "ashamed," but don't expect other people to share the same conscience as you do. (Interestingly enough, "consciousness" is from the same root as "conscience," which in good old Webster's is defined as "moral judgment that opposes the violation of a previously recognized ethical principle and that leads to feelings of guilt [emphasis mine] if one violates such a principle.") And speaking of shared conscience, I'd like to point out that we seem to be in at least partial agreement on three main points: 1) Conventional (confinement) meat production is inhumane and environmentally irresponsible. 2) Cattle (or any animal, if I may extend the argument) should not be tortured or tormented. 3) Human beings should be good stewards of the earth, its land, its water, and its fellow inhabitants.

QUOTE
So you raise cattle. Then you must know how the animal is restrained prior to being killed. You mentioned that shooting the animal is "one way," what are other ways?


Actually, you mentioned shooting animals, or rather you asked if they were shot. I simply answered in the affirmative. "Other ways" of what? Restraint?

QUOTE
Who is attacking you that you are "trying to help?"

I apologize for my wording here. I shouldn't have used the term "attack," as it's not quite accurate. Thanks for pointing that out. What I meant in that statement, to go back to things I've said earlier in this post and on other posts, is that pointing out examples of inhumane, unsustainable, environmentally damaging methods practiced by some (most?) producers and then using those examples to apply a judgment upon all meat producers, including the few who are actually responsible, harms the responsible producers, and some of them may percieve it as an attack, when really it doesn't need to be. As I pointed out earlier, we seem to agree more than disagree. From your critique of conventional meat production (you mentioned the abuse of fuel), it seems you are aware of at least some of the problems with the conventional meat production system. I, as a meat producer who is also aware of such problems and works hard to alleviate them, was simply asking that you not include me, or people like me, in that system, as I am trying to do what I do in as responsible a way as possible. I was aware of exceptions, and I merely wanted to point them out. Those I am trying to help are anyone with dreams of a future in which healthy, safe food is produced sustainably and responsibly and consumed gratefully. I am trying to help reach that future by responsibly producing the highest quality food I possibly can. Someone has to do it.

El Lechero
post Feb 13 2008, 03:21 AM


QUOTE (wolfinillois @ Feb 12 2008, 09:38 PM) *
May I suggest that you all Google 'Temple Grandin'...no it's not a church:) Temple Grandin is a woman who has spent her life designing humane slaughter methods. And no, that is not an oxymoron. All of life is connected, and if the meat that I eat is raised and slaughtered in the best way possible, and if I honor the creature that I'm eating, I feel no guilt for my eating choices.




Yes, thank you for mentioning Grandin's work. I have applied many of her ideas to my operation, not necessarily in slaughtering animals, but in being sensitive to the way animals percieve harm and the ways they feel stress. Everyone who raises animals or even those who merely own pets would benefit from reading her words.

QUOTE
Small aside, in the harvesting of all those lovely vegetarian grains thousands of small creatures often get chopped up by the harvest machines.


Animals don't get chopped up in "all" harvesting of grains, just when heavy machinery is used. I wonder if vegetarians (or vegans) seek out only grains that have been harvested without the chopping of innocent bunnies, fawns and chicks. Or maybe they don't believe that those animals suffer.

El Lechero
post Feb 13 2008, 03:29 AM


As another aside, What if a person were to live "suffering free" for an entire year? Imagine not eating, wearing, driving, or otherwise consuming anything that had caused another living creature any kind of discomfort or harm whatsoever. Would such a thing be possible?

MarinaSnow
post Feb 13 2008, 03:39 AM


QUOTE
No, I can't "guarantee" anything,. ...

Then I go back to my original point, which is, due to the fact that suffering happens to animals that are slaughtered, we humans can raise our consciousness to a higher level by cutting down on so much gluttony.

QUOTE
....but don't expect other people to share the same conscience as you do.

I don't expect anything of other humans, but I can always hope.

QUOTE
And speaking of shared conscience, I'd like to point out that we seem to be in at least partial agreement on three main points: 1) Conventional (confinement) meat production is inhumane and environmentally irresponsible. 2) Cattle (or any animal, if I may extend the argument) should not be tortured or tormented. 3) Human beings should be good stewards of the earth, its land, its water, and its fellow inhabitants.

Agreed. And I want you to know that I respect most ranchers and farmers very much. I have also fought to stop that agriculture bill from passing that would force all owners of farm animals to microchip them. I feel it would be unfair and lead to the decline of many small farmers and ranchers, in addition to being a horrific way for the powers-that-be to put a virus into the animals that would kill humans, or make them sick, or sterile. (or to harm the animal, although humans are their target)

QUOTE
Actually, you mentioned shooting animals, or rather you asked if they were shot. I simply answered in the affirmative. "Other ways" of what? Restraint?

I don't think I want to know anymore, it hurts me to picture it.

QUOTE
....and then using those examples to apply a judgment upon all meat producers, including the few who are actually responsible, harms the responsible producers,....

I was merely pointing out something that I feel is important for people to stop and think about.

QUOTE
Those I am trying to help are anyone with dreams of a future in which healthy, safe food is produced sustainably and responsibly and consumed gratefully. I am trying to help reach that future by responsibly producing the highest quality food I possibly can. Someone has to do it.

I commend you for this.

MarinaSnow
post Feb 13 2008, 03:44 AM


QUOTE (wolfinillois @ Feb 12 2008, 08:38 PM) *
Small aside, in the harvesting of all those lovely vegetarian grains thousands of small creatures often get chopped up by the harvest machines.

You see, I did not know this. This conversation has enlightened me about this. I get my produce and grains from an Organic Company in California, I will now be calling them and asking about this.


El Lechero
post Feb 13 2008, 03:44 AM


Right on, Marina. It's an uphill battle to change the way our food production system has been perverted, but if we stick together as consumers and producers, regardless of our individual food choices and preferences, we can hopefully mend some of the damage and teach future generations to carry on a tradition of caring for the earth and its inhabitants.

MarinaSnow
post Feb 13 2008, 04:20 AM


QUOTE (El Lechero @ Feb 12 2008, 09:44 PM) *
Right on, Marina. It's an uphill battle to change the way our food production system has been perverted, but if we stick together as consumers and producers, regardless of our individual food choices and preferences, we can hopefully mend some of the damage and teach future generations to carry on a tradition of caring for the earth and its inhabitants.

Very well put. Thanks for the dialog. rolleyes.gif

radicalmom
post Feb 18 2008, 12:29 PM


It's great to see such wonderful feedback, yet i feel the thread went off-topic. the use of vaccines will not prevent the development of that illness. note that the workers suffered from neurological disorders. there is a tribe in africa(wish i could remember the country) that uses cannibalism as part of it's spiritual rituals. they consume the brains of their victims as part of this ceremony. the elders who practice this over the decades have developed the very same symptoms!. apparently there is an enzyme existing in the human brain(which has been called similar to the brain of the swine) which causes disorders such as this when consumed or injested over an extended period of time. i wish i could remember where i read about this; it was long ago. but it is indelible in my brain. and to think that the mayo clinic has not made correlations between the two is irresponsible. anyway.. if anyone has responses to this i would love to see it. in my opinion it is all the more imperative to know your food. mass-production of any food on such a scale as they are practicing can only be detrimental to the safety of the consumer. and now we have the beef issue. BUY LOCAL!! thanks.. annie

diana
post Feb 18 2008, 10:19 PM


QUOTE (radicalmom @ Feb 18 2008, 12:29 PM) *
It's great to see such wonderful feedback, yet i feel the thread went off-topic. the use of vaccines will not prevent the development of that illness.

Who mentioned vaccines beside you? Oh, OK at the very start! There is another thread on this forum, and I think the vaccine issue was hot when this story broke, here. Note that the issue of sanitizing chemicals was also raised, sort of a way of saying, 'is it something about the pigs or is it something that seems tangential -- but maybe isn't?'

QUOTE
there is a tribe in africa(wish i could remember the country) that uses cannibalism as part of it's spiritual rituals. they consume the brains of their victims as part of this ceremony. the elders who practice this over the decades have developed the very same symptoms!. apparently there is an enzyme existing in the human brain(which has been called similar to the brain of the swine) which causes disorders such as this when consumed or injested over an extended period of time. i wish i could remember where i read about this; it was long ago.

Cannibalism leads to the human equivalent of mad cow, also known as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and is due to prions (not bacteria, not a parasite, but a sort of a protein...). That disease has come up in Asia, and in every place with cannibalism, not just Africa.

See: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/prions/
and http://biology.kenyon.edu/slonc/bio38/ehlert/prion.htm
-diana