Rancho Feeding Corporation officials have been indicted by a federal ground jury for allowing tainted meat into the supply chain.
The company, which went out of business in February, recalled 8.7m pounds of meat and other products from animals labelled “diseased and unsound” by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), earlier this year.
Rancho co-owner Jesse J. Amaral Jr., foreperson, Felix Sandoval Cabrera, and primary yardperson, Eugene D. Corda, were charged with 11 felony counts, according to an indictment .
It alleges that the firm processed animals condemned by USDA and those that had eye cancer.
Between January 2013-2014, the slaughterhouse processed and distributed meat from 101 condemned cattle and 79 cancer eye cows for human consumption, said the indictment.
Cattle had signs of cancer
Co-owner Robert Singleton is not named as a defendant and is referred to as “R.S.”.
Singleton will be indicted on one count of distributing adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat, according to a separate court filing made this week.
It added that he will plead guilty and cooperate with the prosecution of the other defendants.
The indictment said that R.S. purchased cattle for the slaughterhouse which showed signs of epithelimoa, lumps or other abnormalities around the eye, and were less expensive than cattle that appeared healthy.
From mid to late 2012 until early January 2014, Amaral and R.S. directed Corda and Cabrera to circumvent procedures for certain cancer eye cows.
Acting on instructions, Corda swapped uninspected cancer eye cows for cattle that had already passed ante mortem inspection and were awaiting slaughter, according to the indictment.
“Cabrera knocked the cancer eye cows, and he or another kill floor employee at his instruction slaughtered them and deposited their heads in the gut bin,” it added.
“Cabrera, or another kill floor employee at his instruction, placed heads from apparently healthy cows, which has been previously reserved, next to the cancer eye cow carcasses.
“This switch and slaughter of uninspected cancer eye cows occurred during the inspectors’ lunch breaks, a time during which plant operations were supposed to cease.”
When inspectors returned they were unaware that the carcasses they were inspecting belonged to cancer eye cows that had escaped ante mortem inspection.
USDA Condemned stamps carved out
Around the same time Amaral directed Rancho employees to process cattle that had already been condemned by the USDA veterinarian, said the indictment.
“Specifically, Amaral instructed Cabrera which condemned cattle should be processed and, based on this instruction, Cabrera in turn directed kill floor employees to carve “USDA Condemned” stamps out of the cattle carcasses and to process the carcasses for transport, sale, and distribution,” it continued.
Amaral pleaded not guilty during a hearing and was released on $50,000 bail. The decision on Cabrera and Corda is pending, according to KQED News.