Monday, February 16, 2004

BSE Tidbit of the Week

I was worried about the "other" parts of the cow. Now I know way too much.
    But despite new rules adopted in December to keep the riskiest tissues out of the food chain, some of the unsavory ingredients can still wind up on the table, hidden behind innocuous labels like "beef flavoring" or as accidental contamination in taco filling or processed meat.

    People can get a fatal, human version of the disease by eating tissue from infected animals, though no one knows what dose it takes.

    Cows can become infected by eating less than one-thousandth of an ounce of brain tissue from a sick animal, a panel of international experts said in a report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month.
And for more:
    But because only about 15 percent of cattle slaughtered are over 30 months of age, the brains from 30 million animals a year can still go into the human food supply.

    Most don't, though, because they're instead made into animal and pet food. But fresh, canned and frozen brains can still be sold in specialty markets and served in restaurants.

    Brains can also be used in headcheese and some other processed meat products, as long as they're listed on the label. No label is necessary when brains and spinal cords are cooked along with other ingredients to make beef broth, beef flavoring and beef extracts.

    It's also still legal to include brains in nutritional supplements called "glandulars."

    The new regulations allow processors to use machines to scrape flesh from the backbone of cattle under 30 months of age. A meat paste results that isn't supposed to contain bits of spinal cord. But sometimes it does. It is used in a variety of products, from taco filling to pizza toppings, hot dogs and some types of sausage and beef jerky.
Emphasis is mine.