At stake in the ultimate gamble, as any bungee jumper can tell you, is your life. But these days you don't have to jump off a bridge with a harness around your waist to cop that thrill. You can simply eat the wrong meat. In the current climate that means brain food -- quite literally. Mad cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is a prion (microscopic protein particle) disease found in an animal's nervous system. Humans can acquire a form of BSE, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), by ingesting infected brains, spinal cords, retinas, or even internal organs, which are often found in ground beef and beef byproducts. And while, unlike Europe, the United States hasn't discovered any BSE-infected cattle or reported a single case of vCJD, there's always a first time. So nix on those sweetbreads and mystery-meat sausages -- unless, of course, you don't mind a gamble.
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