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Corvallis, OR, United States
My personal obsession with prion diseases with smidges of music I like and rescue dog advocacy from a disabled Oregonian.


Song in my head: It don't mean a thing if you aint got that wa do wa do wa.....Trapper John

In season: Oregonians4Kerry, perverted justice

You Are What You Eat

I mentioned in the past my work experience as a health inspector. I never worked as a meat plant inspector , but whether to eat red meat or not has always been an issue in my home. My son quit eating beef in middle school, prefering chicken or turkey, so not eating beef isn't anything new, but I must admit that occasionally my mouth waters for a medium rare cheeseburger, made from ground beef. I haven't given into my cravings for a burger since this whole mad cow scare and from what I know of food safety, the gov't entities that inspect them, and how viruses and baby virus particles, called prions (prion stands for proteinaceious infectious particle) work I'm avoiding beef like the plague.

The following question was asked in a newsgroup I belong to and wanted to share this:

A physician asked me the following question. Is kosher beef inherently
safer than "normally slaughtered" beef in regards to mad cow disease
potentials? He feels it is because Kosher slaughter does not, in the
physicians words, "disturb the brain". This refers to the "normal" slaughter
method of shooting the cow in the head with a slug from a compressed air gun
to kill the cow. The cow is then hung, its throat slit and the cow is bled
out. Kosher slaughter skips the slug to the brain. He feels disturbing the
brain may "dislodge" brain tissue (implicated in mad cow disease) and spread
the disease to the muscle during the bleed out thereby contaminating the
cow. Any comments? I quickly dismissed his question but the more I think
about it, the more I think he may have a point. He asked that I pose this
question to a forum of experts.

Her's a response from a food expert, Dr. Joe Regenstein of Cornell University:

Basically there are two issues:

1. If it is true that stunning may release brain matter -- then the
religious kill certainly avoids that problem.

2. Because for kosher, animals have a very thorough lung inspection, the
kosher industry for practical reasons (i.e., too many failures with
older animals) uses only animals under 30 months.

Therefore, there is a basis for suggesting that kosher meat might be
slightly safer.

and another response from a food expert:

1. Kosher-kills are typically older animals, rather than steers and
heifers. The reason is economic: The kosher cost overhead can be divided
among more pounds, the heavier the animal. Only the forequarter of the
animal is used.

2. The animal is killed while being "looked in the eye". This would tend to
eliminate any unhealthy animals with noticeable symptoms, including mental

3. Large nerves are trimmed out of muscles during koshering.

4. The rabbinical organization overseeing the meat production is another
layer of "regulation" on top of that of USDA inspection. They are
punctilious about picking only on the most favorable animals in order to
keep their authority and impact in the forefront.

If you're eating steaks, chops and roasts, (1) above would indicate the
possibility of higher included infectivity, (2)-(4) would indicate reduced
infectivity. All-in-all, I'd hazard a guess that the trade-off is about equal.

If you're eating ground beef, kosher meat doesn't include AMR meat, nervous
system tissue, and does include healthier animals. I'd say the risk of BSE
infectivity would be noticeably lower for kosher ground beef.

You should also remember that all koshered meat contains a noticeable
amount of salt.

The issue of eating BSE-contaminated meat is most important in young
children, not older adults where the intestine is not so permeable to proteins.

However, don't lose sight of the "ball" here: The gravest risk from beef is
E. coli O157 in ground beef fed to children and juveniles.

And then this article was sent to me today (not available online yet via PNAS).

New form of mad cow prion discovered

There's more than one way to make a cow mad. Analysis of Italian cows revealed a new form of the disease-causing prion. Prions are infectious proteins that cause devastating and fatal neurodegenerative diseases, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cows and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. The prion causes proteins in the brain to go awry, eventually leaving large holes in the tissue. Humans can acquire the prion from eating affected cows or may develop the sporadic form of the disease spontaneously. Until the work of Salvatore Monaco and colleagues, only one strain of prion had been found in cows.

And if you are a big tuna eater, there's this:

Eating tuna puts unborn at risk of autism

Mady Hornig, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York, was cited as telling a panel of the Institute of Medicine, which advises the American government on health issues, that the effects of mercury in fish should be investigated urgently because high levels of mercury in oily fish, including tuna and swordfish, could be behind the rising incidence of autism among children, stating "We know that there's a rising incidence of autism and we know that in some children there must be a role for environmental factors. Mercury from fish might be contributing to the rise. Recent research has shown that there has been a twofold underestimate of the amount of mercury foetuses are exposed to, so this is a matter for concern. The developing brain is more sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury.'' Hornig was further cited as saying she was about to begin a study of 100,000 Norwegian children that would investigate whether the consumption of mercury-contaminated fish increased the risk of autism. The United States Institute of Medicine is also beginning an investigation into whether exposure to organic forms of mercury can raise a child's risk of autism.

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