Processing Magazine

Eleven Minnesota slaughterhouse workers fall ill

December 10, 2007

On the slaughterhouse floor at Quality Pork Processors Inc. is an area known as the "head table" where workers cut up pigs'' heads and then shoot compressed air into the skulls until the brains come spilling out, but that practice has come under suspicion from health authorities. The Associated Press reports that over eight months—from last December through July, 11—workers at the plant in Austin, Minn., all of them employed at the head table, developed numbness, tingling or other neurological symptoms, and some scientists suspect inhaled airborne brain matter may have somehow triggered the illnesses. The use of compressed air to remove pig brains was suspended at Quality Pork earlier this week while authorities try to get to the bottom of the mystery. Five of the workers have been told they may never work again, having been diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIDP, a rare immune disorder that attacks the nerves and produces tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms and legs, sometimes causing lasting damage.