Brain Tissue In
German Cooked Meats
Raises Mad Cow/CJD
Exposure Questions
GIESSEN, Germany (AFP) - Some German cooked meats contain brain or spinal cord, raising questions about the country's potential exposure to tissue types blamed for transmitting the human form of "mad cow" disease, a scientist said Thursday.
Ernst Luecker, a veterinary researcher at Giessen University, said he had conducted more than 500 tests of local products, using artificial antibodies to detect the presence of specific proteins found in the brain and enzymes found in the spinal cord.
Brain or spinal matter showed up in nine percent of liver sausage and 15 percent of Mettwurst, also known as bologna, although blood sausage and nearly all frankfurters were brain-free, he said.
"We were surprised by how much brain and spinal cord is used in sausage," Luecker told AFP. His research was reported in Thursday's issue of the British weekly New Scientist.
The discovery raises questions about food safety in Germany in the light of the scare about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), as "mad cow" disease is formally called, Luecker said.
Food from cattle infected with BSE has been found to be transmissible to humans, infecting them with a fatal brain disorder known as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Luecker stressed his study "does not mean that there is now a BSE scare in Germany," and he noted that the tests were unable to detect whether the tissues came from pigs or cows.
Cow brains and spinal cord are banned from human food products in many European countries because these are the tissues most likely to carry BSE.
Germany has refused to follow suit, insisting that its cattle do not have BSE and contending that its meat goods do not make widespread use of brain.
It is not illegal to use brain in Germany. But Luecker, in comments to New Scientist, said he also found brain in cooked meats carrying the top-quality rating, which is supposed to be conferred only on the finest ingredients.
He also noted that Germany imports some of its sausage meat from abroad.
Use of brain tissue is "unacceptable with regard to the development of new-variant CJD," he told the magazine. "If there is any brain when the label says there should be none, we should be cautious."
Luecker said he devised the test method after discovering that no-one had come up with a way to see if cooked meat product contained brain.

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