beef

How did 9 million pounds of beef—more than a year’s worth of sales for Rancho Feeding Corp.—end up being recalled? New information has come to light on the January raid that led to the massive recall.

Federal investigators were tipped off by a former Rancho employee, which led marshals to eventually raid the site in January, seizing company records that caused the recall.

Thousands of stores across the U.S. had to pull meat products related to the Rancho recall. A criminal investigation included reports of “cancerous” cows being used in the production of beef products sold by Rancho Feeding Corp.

Now, new information reveals that Rancho employees were purchasing diseased dairy cows and processing them into meat “when government inspectors weren’t there,” reports CNN. “After the cows were killed, employees would hide the warning signs of cancer by trimming off diseased parts, using a fake stamp of approval or even replacing the heads of sick cows with ones from healthy animals.”

According to a letter from the USDA to Rancho, the investigation found that Rancho’s Northern California facility had “shipped adulterated and misbranded product” and had not inspected cattle that “were likely affected with epithelioma of the eye (eye cancer).”

And CNN reports that an email revealed a USDA inspector was also romantically involved with a Rancho plant foreman. “In the December e-mail, an assistant Rancho plant manager wrote to a USDA official to let him know about the relationship between inspector Lynnette Thompson and the plant foreman. The manager writes that the foreman admitted to seeing Thompson.”

The USDA’s ethics manual says employees should not be assigned to inspect facilities where “they are engaged in a personal relationship with an establishment employee.”

And while there are no reports of illnesses related to consuming meat from the Rancho facilities, the oversight and ability to manipulate and deceive USDA officials is cause for concern.

“One would speculate at this point that in order for there [to] have been a deception that allowed a whole bunch of improperly processed meat to get certified for sale, someone at USDA was deceived,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat whose district includes the now former Rancho facility location. “Something must have broken down in their process too. So, in the absence of information, I am left to believe that maybe they’re a little concerned that they dropped the ball, too.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: USDA