News that Cairo International Airport authorities seized 420 pounds of frozen cow brains last week has flooded the wires. Smugglers buy the brains for less than $1 a pound in Sudan and sell them to Egyptian specialty restaurants for nearly $6 a pound. The fourth such foil in just one week cost the three Sudanese men $1,500 in profit – a massive sum for this struggling country. Airport officials told AP on condition of anonymity that the confiscated brains will be burned. But here’s a question we have to ask: shouldn’t Egyptians think twice about eating fried cow brains?
Fried cow brains for lunch
Fried cow brain dishes are considered a tasty dish in numerous countries, including France, the United States, Italy and Pakistan. In Egypt, according to Global Post, the brains are bathed in batter, fried, and served with a spicy red sauce in pita bread.
Consumption of brain tissue has become more taboo since mad-cow disease swept through the globe in the 1980s and 1990s. The first diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was made in Britain in 1986.
Three years later, health authorities banned human consumption of beef brain, spinal cord, thymus, spleen and tonsils. While human beings can’t actually contract mad-cow disease, “it causes Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD), which occurs spontaneously in 1 in 1 million persons but can also be passed on genetically,” according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
“CJD is a form of brain damage that leads to a rapid decrease of mental function and movement,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NCBI).
Variant CJD can be caused by exposure to contaminated beef products and it tends to effect younger people. “However, fewer than 200 people worldwide have had this disease,” the NCBI reports.
Although variant CJD is rare, eating beef brains is still risky. In the United States, it is not lawful to eat brains of cows that are older than 30 months. Given the more relaxed sanitary regulations in Sudan, it’s difficult to ascertain whether smugglers are sourcing safe brains from juvenile cows.
And cooking infected brains will not make it safe.
In the News section of their website, researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center explained that the prion protein which causes CJD can survive extremely high temperatures. “So cooking will not protect anyone from this abnormal prion protein,” they caution.
Fried cow brains for lunch? Not for us.
:: Global Post
image via All That is Interesting
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