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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 19:03 GMT
Sausage brain tissue fear
Some meat may contain undeclared brain material
Some German sausage may contain undeclared brain tissue that is banned in the UK because of fears about mad cow disease, scientists have warned.

Scientists, using a new technique to test for brain and spinal cord material, found that up to 15% of German liverwurst and mettwurst were partly made from brain.

Even high quality products which are not supposed to contain any offal apart from liver contained cheap and potentially dangerous brain tissue.

The scientists say that the use of such tissue is "unacceptable with regard to the development of new variant CJD".

If there is any brain when the label says there should be none, we should be cautious

Ernst Lucker, Giessen University
Cow brains and spinal cord is banned from human food products in Britain and other countries because it is the tissue most likely to be contaminated with BSE.

New variant CJD is now recognised as BSE in another guise and emerged as a result of people eating infected beef.

The European Commission wants all member countries to impose a brain ban as a precaution.

But Germany refuses, insisting there is no BSE in its cattle and no widespread use of brain in its meat products.

Researchers from Giessen University collected 440 samples of local ready-to-eat sausage and 126 samples of liverwurst from all over Germany.

They then used artificial antibodies to test for protein from glial cells in the brain and for an enzyme called enolase, which comes from brain cells.

The results, reported in New Scientist magazine, showed that blood sausage and nearly all frankfurters were brain-free.

But brain matter turned up in 9% of liverwurst and 15% of mettwurst.

The test cannot distinguish between cow or pig brain, or brain from uninfected cattle.

However, researcher Ernst Lucker said: "If there is any brain when the label says there should be none, we should be cautious."

He pointed out that Germany imports some of its sausage meat.

Although meat from countries with BSE should not contain brain, before now it had been impossible to tell if the ban is enforced.

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