Brain-removal workers fall ill at Minnesota pork plant

US - State health officials said Monday they were investigating neurological illnesses among 11 workers at a pork processing plant, but that there was no evidence that the public was at risk.
calendar icon 4 December 2007
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Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan also said there was no evidence that the food coming out of Quality Pork Processing in Austin has been contaminated.

The workers, who became ill, had symptoms such as numbness, and tingling in their arms and legs.

Two were hospitalized for a time. Some of the workers recovered completely, while others are still going through rehabilitation, she said.

Five of the workers had symptoms consistent with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a condition characterized by progressive weakness and impaired sensory functions in legs and arms. It is treated with steroids and immunosuppressant drugs, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The patients included men and women from a range of ages and ethnicities, said State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield. But they all worked in the same part of the plant, removing hog brains with compressed air.

None of the plant's other 1,300 workers reported similar symptoms, and there have been no similar reports at Minnesota's other large hog slaughterhouse in Worthington, officials said.

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