Fruitland American Meat Company is recalling 4,000 pounds of beef, including rib-eye steaks, over concerns of mad cow disease.
Potentially contaminated beef was processed by Fruitland, and then shipped to a Connecticut distribution center for Whole Foods. That warehouse provides retail outlets around New England with meat and other stock. One restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri and another in New York also received recalled meat. Affected meats were packaged between September 2013 and April 2014.
Organic beef carried by Whole Foods, especially the bone-in rib-eye steak, are of special concern.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which issued the recall, stated the dorsal root ganglia of the cows may not have been properly removed during processing. This is a cluster of nerve cells attached to the spinal cord in many animals. That structure must be cut away from the carcass in any cattle 30 months of age or older, by FSIS regulations. This body part is considered a risk factor to transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
"The problem was discovered by FSIS during a review of company slaughter logs. The problem may have occurred as a result of the way some company employees were recording information and determining the age of various cattle," USDA officials stated.
The animals were all inspected by officials of the USDA, and did not exhibit any signs of mad cow disease at that time. There have been no reports, so far, of any health problems associated with consumption of the meats.
The slaughterhouse and meat processing facility is located in Fruitland, Missouri, north of Cape Giardeau. The company employs more than 45 people, processing 175 to 200 heads of cattle each week.
The USDA classified this latest incident as a Type 2 recall, signifying the event presents a "remote possibility" of health problems.
When humans are infected by BSE, they can develop a disorder, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (cCJD). Since 1996, 229 people in 12 countries have been diagnosed with the affliction.
The disease causes personality changes, loss of body functions and can lead to death in some victims. Prions, altered proteins, are believed to carry BSE to the human body, resulting in vCJD. Infected people can carry the disease up to 50 years before symptoms begin to show. During this time, carriers can pass it to other people through blood transfusions and medical procedures, as prions attach readily to metal surfaces.
"There has never been a case of vCJD that did not have a history of exposure within a country where the cattle disease, BSE, was occurring," the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported.
A man in Texas died in June 2014 from cCJD, becoming the fourth American to die from the disease.