It’s a case that previously had been known for the sheer volume of the recall—millions of pounds of bad meat, retrieved from thousands of stores across the country. But CNN is now reporting that the case has a far more sinister tone.
According to an article by CNN, federal investigators began surveillance on the slaughterhouse owned by Rancho Feeding Corp. and located in Northern California, after receiving a tip from a former employee. In January, federal marshals raided the Petaluma plant and seized the company records. Days later, the first recall went out, a recall that eventually amount to 9 million pounds of bad meat.
The recall involved thousands of retail chains, including Kroger, Food 4 Less, and Walmart. It led to the voluntary recall by Nestle of its Philly Steak and Cheese flavored Hot Pockets after the company learned it had bought beef from Rancho Feeding Corp.
But according to documents obtained by CNN, supplemented by interviews with federal officials, that was just the beginning of a long investigation into the practices of Rancho Feeding Corp., an investigation that now has investigators believing that Rancho Feeding Corp. was not just shipping off meat that was “unfit for human consumption,” but that they were deliberately doing so with full knowledge and covering up the evidence to boot.
Investigators believe that Rancho Feeding Corp. was buying diseased dairy cows and processing them when government inspectors were not there. After the cows were killed, employees would hide signs of cancer by trimming off the diseased parts, using a fake stamp of approval or even replacing the heads of sick cows with heads from healthy ones.
And if that wasn’t enough, one of the government inspectors who is responsible for protecting the public from practices such as these was having a romantic relationship with the plant foreman, according to a USDA email obtained by CNN.
The inspector, Lynette Thompson, declined to be interviewed by CNN but an email with pictures of text messages from the assistant plant manager to the USDA show that the plant foreman admitted to seeing Thompson and that he had gone to her trailer three times, where they became intimate.
Thompson seemed worried about their relationship being exposed. “Play dumb please 4 my kids delete every thing k [sic].”
She had good reason to be worried. The USDA’s ethics manual states that employees should not be assigned to an establishment where they have a personal relationship with an establishment employee.
Since the recall, Rancho Feeding Corp. has been sold. The USDA has declined comment, pending an ongoing investigation.
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