quinta-feira, novembro 20, 2008

o Foie Gras e o Alzheimer

Foie gras has an ancient history, prepared by the Romans by overfeeding goose with dried figs. The tradition was carried on by Jewish cooks, despite contention over its kosher status, and it was eventually picked up by Gentiles. Foie gras found a welcome reception in France, as did frog’s legs, snails, horse, and plenty of other things that the rest of the world declared “not so good for eating”. Hungarians too enjoy their fois gras, and after the French are the second largest foie gras consumers in the world.The method of preparation, as anyone who has seen the excellent Mondo Cane documentary can attest, appears rather brutal. For most of their lives the Geese or Ducks live a happy free range existence pecking at natural grasses. Twelve to eighteen days before slaughter they begin force feeding the goose, or more commonly duck, by stuffing a tube down its throat and filling its stomach with corn feed. The birds have no gag reflex, but animal rights activists claim that the process hurts the birds, and that the fattening of the liver itself causes them considerable pain. The process is seen as so upsetting that both California and the city of Chicago have made the sale of foie gras illegal, despite the ensuing controversy. (Chicago does however continues to eat a few million hot dogs a year.)
I must admit that as I dined on my three whole duck livers, the rather upsetting way they came to exist slowly vanished from my mind. I naturally assumed this was due to its delicious buttery flavor and soft, creamy texture. But my forgetfulness may have been a much darker omen.
Recent studies “have found a potential link between foie gras consumption and the development of a number of amyloidogenic disease”. These include “Alzheimer’s Disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), tuberculosis, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis”. While this is not my first dance with “dangerous” meals, this one felt different. Perhaps…I deserve Alzheimer’s?
There is however, good news for foie gras eaters. Despite the fact it may increase the risk of those already predisposed to Alzheimer’s, you may at least be able to eat it guilt free. A Spanish chef has found a way to make foie gras without force feeding the birds, by allowing them to naturally fill up in preparation for migration. The birds are, of course, still killed.
More on the link between Alzheimers and foie gras at the always excellent Neurophilosophy blog.
Two accounts by chefs, here and here, of behind the scenes at foie gras farms.
Finally, if you really want to know a whole lot more about it, both good and bad, one can read the 73 page report from the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare here.

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