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Eating Spinal Cords?
March 20th 1999

Spinal Cords. If you're a fan of hamburgers, hot dogs, or luncheon meats, odds are you sometimes eat small bits
of cow spinal cords. You can thank something called Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) for that.

Human deboners remove all the meat they can as each cow carcass goes whizzing by on the production line. What they can't easily cut away ends up at AMR plants, where metal cylinders rub another 1 and a half pounds per carcass off the bones. Why bother? Because it boosts the yield by as much as 300 million pounds a year.

Up to ten percent of your next hamburger or slice of bologna could have come from an AMR plant. And you'll never
know. Foods that contain AMR meat don't have to say so on the label.

The problem is that any tissue that's on or near the bones -- including parts of the spinal cord -- can end up in the mix.

"Most AMR plants voluntarily remove spinal cords before processing, " says the American Meat Institute's Janet Riley. But last year, in response to complaints from consumer groups (including CSPI), the USDA surveyed seven AMR plants in the U.S. The Feds found bits of spinal cord in two out of 11 meat samples.

The USDA has warned AMR plants not to include any spinal cord tissue in their meat. Inspectors have been instructed to send any suspect AMR meat to a USDA lab for testing.

"Let's Do It Properly"

Most scientists and public health experts agree that the U.S. food supply isn't in imminent danger. BSE hasn't been detected in our cow herds. No similar diseases occur naturally in poultry or pigs. Scrapie is confined to sheep. And "we are sitting on a well-documented contingency plan" to prevent the spread of BSE if it shows up, says the NIH's Joe Gibbs. But we need to close the loopholes.

"If we've learned anything from the British," says Gibbs, "it's that rendering is not the way to provide food supplements for cattle and other species, because rendering was obviously the cause of the BSE outbreak in England.

"We also learned that the brain and spinal cord are infectious, and that we should keep them out of the food chain.

"If we're going to do this thing, let's do it properly. Even if there is a very low risk, let's try to reduce it as much as
possible."

NEWS SOURCE: Nutrition Action Healthletter

Nutrition Action is the master-mind critic that sounded the food alarms…”  – Oprah Winfrey