Quality Pork Processor Worker Illnesses

Update of investigation into neurological illnesses at pork processing plant in Austin, MN

The Minnesota Department of Health is evaluating a 13th case of neurological illness in workers at a pork processing facility in Austin. This worker became ill a couple of years ago.

This employee was likely exposed to brain or nerve tissue in the rendering operation in the basement of the plant. Hormel owns the rendering operation.

Health investigators from MDH are in the process of interviewing other workers in the area of the rendering operation to determine exposures and any other similar illnesses. Approximately 25 people are involved in that operation. To date, no other illnesses in workers in this area have surfaced.

MDH continues to investigate to determine the cause for the illnesses. A leading hypothesis is that pig brain or other nerve tissue, removed by using pressurized air, somehow directly exposed workers. The workers developed an immune response to the exposure and in turn their own immune system cross-reacted with their own nervous system. This syndrome is being called progressive inflammatory neuropathy (PIN).  The other hypothesis is that an infectious agent was present in the brain or nervous tissue and MDH continues to investigate this possibility as well.

MDH continues to investigate and look for other cases.

Updated Tuesday, October 07, 2014 at 10:27AM