Sweetbreads seem to be a popular item on NO menus, does no one realize or have any concern that not only do sweetbreads have a danger of being infected with prions (aka vcjd disease a la mad cow) but also can contaminate all surfaces in the restaurants that prepare them. Neuroscientists are in agreement on this fact.
People ate sweetbreads long before there were scientists, neuro or otherwise. The Neo-restaurants have glommed onto sweetbreads in recent years [ the Old Guard always had them] and I suspect that it was an effort to appear "Traditional" and also to glom onto the Food Craze. ["New is better" but "New" is, in painful fact, ancient.
Guess what? Most sweetbreads have been frozen since Amundsen's time. Doesn't hurt them much....they freeze rather well. Go ahead and enjoy them........
wrote lct5522 23:45:17 11/10/03
"does no one realize or have any concern that not only do sweetbreads have a danger of being infected with prions (aka vcjd disease a la mad cow) but also can contaminate all surfaces in the restaurants that prepare them."
First off, the US is still BSE free, as far as we know. So sweetbreads, at least those taken from cows, should be ok. Maybe lamb sweetbreads would be a bit riskier...but scrapie has been known for hundreds of years, and it is closely guarded against by ranchers.
But more importantly, it's a bit naive to think that asiduously avoiding the thymus will keep you safe. Of the thousands of brits who were infected with nvCJD, i'll wager very very few got it solely from consumption of sweetbreads.
Remeber, the prion (protein infectious agent) which "causes" BSE or nvCJD is systemic in infected animals. Although neural tissues have the highest concentrations of the disease-state protein, the meat of a "mad" cow is just as dangerous, as far as we know. Furthermore, i've seen no mention on Medline of any studies that specifically target the thymus as a high-risk organ, despite the french ban on sweetbreads.
I think singling out the thymus as a major health risk is a fairly hysterical response. I'd happily support most campaigns to improve USDA inspection and enforcement in meat packing plants, bans on fodder that contains neural tissue---or even animal protein altogether; they're herbavoures, afterall---or measures to increase safe-handling at slaughterhouses. Any of which could go a long way towards keeping the US food supply free of BSE.
sweetbreads generally means the thymus gland of a veal calf or lamb. It's part of the immune system (where stem cells from the bone marrow mature into active T-lymphocytes). It has two lobes, one that tends to be fiberous and one that is much softer.
That being said, sometime the pancreas is also marketed as sweetbreads.
It was my understanding that most sweetbreads are from Veal
rather than full-grown cows. Thus, the risk shoul be reduced....