A Missouri slaughterhouse is recalling more than 4,000 pounds of beef distributed to a grocery store chain and two restaurants — including one in Kansas City — because the meat could be tainted with mad cow disease.
Fruitland American Meat in Jackson, Mo., is recalling the beef processed at the facility between September 2013 and April 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.
The recalled meat was packaged in 40-pound cases of bone-in ribeye and quartered beef carcasses. It was then shipped from the southeast Missouri plant to a Whole Foods distribution center in Connecticut and to two restaurants — one in New York and another in Kansas City.
USDA’s inspection service agency regulations do not allow it to name the restaurants. Regulators also said the incident represents a low level of health risk.
During a review of the company’s logs, USDA inspectors discovered that parts of the cattle’s nervous systems may not have been completely removed as required by law.
Tissues from the nervous system of cows older than 30 months of age are banned from human consumption in the U.S. because they could be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease.
Mad cow disease is a rare but fatal degenerative disorder that attacks the central nervous system. Humans contract the disease by eating meat contaminated with tissues from the brains and spinal cords of infected cattle.
The cattle in this case showed no signs of infection when examined by a veterinarian after slaughter, the USDA said.
More than 220 people have been diagnosed with mad cow disease worldwide, primarily in the United Kingdom and France. Only four cases have been reported in the United States.
The most recent U.S. case was confirmed earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after laboratory tests on a patient who died in Texas.
The patient in Texas had traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East and probably contracted the disease abroad, the CDC said.
Fruitland American Meat is a small facility that employs 45 people and specializes in processing grass-fed organic cattle, according to the company’s website. It also processes hogs, lamb, goats, bison and elk.
The company touts food safety on its website, stressing that all the animals processed there are locally raised in open pastures.
“Knowledge of the farm environments allows us to track the animal from birth to harvest,” the website states. “Accurate tracking provides a tremendous safety feature that is not found with larger processors.”
Company sales manager James Fortner did not return a request for comment.
Consumers with food safety questions can ask a virtual representative available 24 hours a day at askkaren.gov or call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central time Monday through Friday.