June 21, 2011

Lawsuit Filed against St. Louis-area Meat Processor Following Six-Month Investigation

Missouri Dept. of Ag and USDA exposed unacceptable additives in ground beef, sausage

After months of investigation, the Missouri Department of Agriculture announced that a lawsuit has been filed by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to stop a St. Louis meat processor from selling meat products that were allegedly mislabeled and contained animal products and additives not allowed by state or federal law.

Missouri's Attorney General sought a temporary restraining order against John's Butcher Shoppee to prevent the continued inclusion of heart muscle in products labeled and sold as ‘ground beef' and to prevent the sale of mislabeled sausage containing both soy and heart muscle.

"Protecting the safety and integrity of our food supply is one of the most important jobs we have at the Missouri Department of Agriculture," said Director of Agriculture Dr. Jon Hagler. "We appreciate Attorney General Koster's efforts to ensure that Missouri families understand that the products they purchase are in fact what they are labeled."

Following a tip received by USDA officials in 2010, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and USDA began an investigation into ground beef and sausage products sold at John's Butcher Shoppee in Overland, Mo. and Festus, Mo.

Between Sept. 2010 and March 2011, the Missouri Department of Agriculture, along with the USDA, purchased samples of ground beef during five visits to the facility and sausage during three visits. The samples were tested at an out-of-state USDA laboratory. Upon the completion of testing, the following results were obtained:

  • All of the ground beef samples contained large proportions of heart muscle.
  • All of the sausage samples contained soy, many contained heart muscle.

State and federal laws prohibit products labeled ‘ground beef' from containing heart muscle. Adding heart muscle to ground beef is considered economic adulteration because retail outlets may charge a higher price for ‘ground beef' while exploiting the price difference afforded by relatively inexpensive heart muscle.

Sausage products containing soy present a dangerous situation for those with soy allergies, as well as violating labeling laws. Including heart muscle in sausage without proper labeling may also be considered economic adulteration.

The temporary restraining order sought and received by Missouri's Attorney General prohibits John's Butcher Shoppee from selling such products and requires the business preserve all records related to the processing and sale of those products pending further legal action.

For more information on the Missouri Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Inspection Program, contact animal.health@mda.mo.gov. Details on the Missouri Department of Agriculture's other programs are available online at http://www.mda.mo.gov.