Don’t Breathe the Meat


The head tables where workers use compressed air to turn brain mass into a slurry are gone at Quality Pork Producers (QPP) in Austin, MN, Indiana Packers Corp. in Delphi, IN and Hormel Foods Corp. in Fremont, NE.

But the neurological disease which the tables are blamed for causing in at least 24 workers in 2007 and 2008–Progressive Inflammatory Neuropathy (PIN)–is not.

In late November more than 20 people demonstrated at the Quality Pork Producers plant in Austin against the treatment workers who developed the non-refractory PIN have received from the pork processor.

They carried signs saying, The Hospitals Prescribed Us Steroids, Science Doesn’t Have Cure For Our Disease and Hormel and QPP Guilty For Our Disease.

Eighteen workers at QPP, five at Indiana Packers Corp. and at least one at the Hormel Foods Corp. in Fremont, NE have developed the mysterious autoimmune disease characterized by tingling and numbness of the limbs and progressive weakness and debility leading to wheelchairs, paralysis and hospitalization in some cases.

Nor have any of the patients Dr. Daniel Lachance, a Mayo Clinic neurologist leading PIN treatment, has seen completely recovered, he told the Associated Press.

While some PIN patients have stabilized or improved and require only pain medication others have had to undergo treatment with intravenous immunoglobulins for their embattled immune systems say published reports.

One worker improved after “a period of rehabilitation,” says Neurology Today but “a few months after returning to work developed the polyradicular pattern experienced by other workers,” and relapsed.

Susan Kruse, a 16 year QPP worker, was reduced to a walker in early 2008 and unable to stand on her feet long enough to work four months later despite intravenous drug treatments every other week according to the Associated Press.

Of course press coverage of PIN has caused a transparency Big Pork does not appreciate.

Not only does seeing what happens at the head tables–and in the slaughterhouse in general–ruin appetites, potential food scares are the very reason behind Big Food’s anti-First Amendment “food disparagement laws” passed in 13 states in the 1990s.

But how could the press omit mention of the “aerosolized blood and organ particulate matter” a.k.a. brain mist when it is thought to cause PIN? And it’s a recognized risk in the Occupational Health Act?

It turns out that pork workers who developed PIN were in charge of turbo-charging a hog’s brains out its snout with a high pressure hose and “pouring” the brain soup into containers for shipment overseas and to parts of the US where it is eaten as a human food delicacy.

While a Plexiglas shield protected the hose operator from–is there a euphemism?–blowback, other head table workers had exposed arms and no face shields to prevent breathing or swallowing the pulverized brain material, say investigators.

“The heads come down to rendering with a lot of energy, causing splattering of some brain matter,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis confirms to Food Engineering magazine.

Scientists theorize PIN is caused when brain mist provokes an autoimmune, inflammatory response in the peripheral nervous systems of exposed workers, but can’t explain why it would happen now since head tables aren’t new.

Some theorize it has a long incubation period; others that the ever increasing speeds on slaughterhouse lines make for a greater splat factor.

The important thing say state health and ag officials is the disease which left workers unable to walk a year after they contracted it is not contagious and the meat is safe to eat!

So safe, meat executives initially sought “chemical toxins at the plant” for the cause of PIN (see: gas leaks at the World Trade Center collapse.)

So safe the Minnesota Health Department tucks a photo of a can of Rose Pork Brains with Milk Gravy in between photos of the head table in its final 53-page PIN investigation report–and a recipe for Scrambled Brains which serves four.

MARTHA ROSENBERG is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. She can be reached at: mrosenberg@evmark.org


Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving