One of the largest beef recalls in recent history occurred earlier this year when Rancho Feeding Corporation was forced to recall almost nine million pounds of tainted meat from thousands of stores nationwide.
CNN says it has obtained documents showing how the products deemed “unfit for human food” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found their way to market.
In a bizarre twist to the story, CNN also discovered an USDA email showing that one of the government inspectors was involved in a romantic relationship with a plant foreman.
The investigation of the plant began at the beginning of this year after USDA received a tip-off from a former Rancho employee. The Petaluma plant was raided by federal marshals who seized numerous documents. The first beef recall notice was issued a few days later.
In a shocking revelation, investigators discovered that the company was purchasing diseased cows, and slaughtering and processing them when government inspectors were not present. Employees — so far unidentified — trimmed off parts of the animals that showed possible signs of cancer. They covered their actions by using fake approval stamps.
The other actions being covered up were of a more “romantic” nature.
An assistant Rancho plant manager blew the whistle on USDA Inspector Lynette Thompson by sending an email alleging that she was having an illicit relationship with the plant foreman.
The email went into quite graphic detail: “He said he went to her trailer three different times and they were intimate. She also sent him a picture of her naked backside in a tanning salon to his cell phone.”
Texts were attached to the e-mail which he claimed were from Thompson to the foreman: “I need a kiss later,” Thompson wrote.
“Me to [sic],” the foreman replied. Thompson said in another message: “Play dumb please 4 my kids delete every thing k [sic].”
Of course, USDA has strict rules of conduct set out in its ethics manual. For example, employees are not to be assigned to an establishment where “they are engaged in a personal relationship with an establishment employee.”
Jesse Amaral, one of Rancho’s former owners said that the relationship between the government inspector and plant foreman had no connection to the recall. However, his attorney, Jeffrey Bornstein, admitted that his client had made some mistakes.
In a statement he said:
“There were opportunities for cows to have gone through the process without proper inspection or otherwise properly being handled. He takes responsibility for mistakes in judgment that were made. He regrets not being better able to recognize, respond and stop some of these alleged bad practices earlier. He’s extremely remorseful.”
The other former co-owner, Robert Singleton, refused to comment. The plant was sold sometime after the beef recall was implemented, but the U.S. Attorney has decided to indict both of Rancho’s former owners.
U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat whose district includes the former Rancho facility, suggested that the USDA has something to hide.
“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.
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.”
The USDA declined to comment, due to the ongoing investigation.
This beef recall was one of a series that have taken place in recent years. Considering that very few people have actually been made ill by the beef, it seems that the control system usually works.
But no system can really take account of human emotions where sex is involved.