Monday, December 10, 2007

Feeling Ill at the Head Table

OK, I'm warning you in advance -- don't read on if you get queasy reading about how your food is processed prior to arriving at the supermarket, or if you're a vegetarian, or have a religious affiliation that is pork-adverse. Etc, etc etc.

According to a new article on Wired's web site, the "head table" in question is the station at a pork processing plant where the brains of a pig are extracted by blowing compressed air through the skull and squishing the "meat" out the other side. Apparently some of the workers are contracting an illness known as chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIDP.

The theory is that the workers may be acquiring this illness through inhalation of pork brain mist occurring in the air through the de-braining process. See, I warned you and you read anyway.

The article is chock full of details:

In a rapid-fire process that is noisy, smelly and bloody, severed pigs' heads are cut up at the head table at a rate of more than 1,100 an hour. Workers slice off the cheek and snout meat, then insert a nozzle in the head and blast air inside until the light pink mush that is the brain tissue squirts out from the base of the skull.

[...]

Compressed air could turn some brain matter into a mist that could be inhaled by workers, said Mike Doyle, a microbiologist who heads the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety. Or the workers may have come into contact with something dangerous and then touched their noses or mouths, he said.

Delicious. In the words of Tom T. Hall,

That's all there is to this small [ story ],
But waitress, before you leave...
Could you please bring me some coffee
And a hot ham sandwich, please?

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