Over 4,000 pounds of beef was recalled this Thursday by Fruitland American Meat in Missouri. The meat in question was delivered to a Whole Foods in Connecticut and restaurants in New York and Kansas City. The meat was packaged in September 2013, and on April of this year. In an inspection of the food logs by the Department of Food Safety, it was discovered that the dorsal root ganglia or nervous tissue of the meat might have not been removed. Even though there was a small percentage that the beef contained any risks, it violated federal regulations, and it had to be recalled. The USDA requires that tissues of the nervous system for cows over 30 months or older be removed, in order to prevent any risks related to mad cow disease. However, the USDA issued a statement saying that throughout the inspection of the cattle, before or after being slaughtered, they had shown no signs of the disease.
Mad Cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a neurological disease that affects cattle and that is transmitted to humans by consumption of the meat. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is unknown how cows get the infection, but the most common theory claims that it comes from a modification of a protein called Prion, that when it changes it becomes harmful for the animal, and if eaten, it is fatal for humans. The Department of Food and Safety must inspect logs and cattle to ensure no risk of BSE is found in the beef, if proper disposal of the nervous tissue related with the disease is not found, the beef must be recalled, just like they did in Missouri.
According to the CDC, the first cases of mad cow disease were identified in the 1980s. It is believed that the disease came from feeding the cattle with BSE infested meat products. The first outbreak was in the United Kingdom, and the disease peaked in 1993. In the United States, the first case of BSE was reported in October of 2003. The diagnosis of the disease was confirmed by a laboratory in England in December of that year. Later testing identified that the animal had been transferred to the U.S from Canada in 2001. The same cow was then examined by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection, the tissues related to the disease were removed, and the rest of the body was released for human intake.
Consumption of beef with mad cow disease can be deadly. In humans, the contaminated meat is linked to a fatal brain disorder called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (variant CJD) and starts with psychiatric symptoms such as cognitive deficiencies, lack of movement, and memory instabilities. According to the CDC, more than 200 patients with CJD linked to mad cow disease have been reported and most of them were in the United Kingdom. In the United States, there have been four cases, and the disease has proven to be fatal. The last case reported was in Texas earlier this year. However, the CDC has established that cases in the U.S. were linked to individuals who were frequent travelers or cows that were transported to the country.
Due to the beef recalls and mad cow disease, such as the one is Missouri, cattle import and export from the U.S has diminished. Japan only accepts cattle younger than 30 months and China continues to hold its ban on U.S beef products due to BSE. However, in November of 2013, the United States adopted the international standards by the Organization of Animal Health, which sets new rules on beef import. The United States hopes that this will reopen and expand the global beef exchange.
By Marcia Villavicencio