Answers Still Elusive Over January Meat Recall

There are still more questions than answers following a massive January 2014 meat recall of almost 9 million pounds of California beef, following a CNN investigation. Documents obtained exclusively by CNN found that the USDA branded Rancho Feeding Corporation’s Petaluma, California beef to be “unfit for human food.” The news network also discovered that a government inspector was also allegedly having an illicit romance with the plant foreman.

The processing plant’s meat recall impacted about 5,800 retailers in 45 states, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico. Those retailers then processed the tainted meat into smaller pieces and then sold it.

A criminal investigation was triggered by the incident in January when federal officials seized the company’s records. The meat recall was partially caused after alleged deliberately circumventing government inspectors to process tainted meat. It still hasn’t been established which employees were involved.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has said that their inspectors were on site during normal hours, which is typical and required by law. The ongoing inspection triggered by the meat recall is being run by the USDA to look into activities at the facility.

The FDA considers any meat processed without inspection to be “unfit for human consumption.” That regulation is in large part what led to the January meat recall and subsequent investigation. There were no reports of illness from the meat.

One California rancher who got caught up in the meat recall has since about 100,000 pounds of his beef locked in freezers. It is costing the rancher, Bill Niman, $400,000, nearly a quarter of his BN Ranch revenue for an entire year.

BN Ranch is known for its humanely raised, high-quality beef. Niman told CNN there is no way that his cattle could have been diseased, but the USDA has held the product back out of an abundance of caution as the meat recall investigation continues.

“It’s been devastating for our business,” Niman told CNN in an interview. ” It’s been a huge distraction. It’s going to be a huge financial hit. We’re going to have to borrow money or sell part of our company in order to stay alive.”

Federal officials believe that the Rancho Feeding Corp.’s slaughterhouse was buying cancerous cows and processing them under the noses of federal inspectors. Niman said in the case of his cows, he or his employees were present during inspections and slaughters, and there’s no way his beef could have been mixed up in the meat recall.