The list of retail stores that received recalled meat from Rancho Feeding Corporation of Petaluma was 211 pages long before federal officials nearly tripled the number of outlets Wednesday to almost 6,400.
It is not clear which stores received meat from cows with cancerous eyes.
News reports a week ago said anonymous sources indicated the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had evidence that some of the 8.7 million pounds of meat came from animals with eye cancer. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times confirmed those stories with documents received through the Freedom of Information Act.
Regulators wrote that they had found two cattle heads with eye cancer and that some of the meat shipped was “likely affected with epithelioma of the eye.” Federal investigators told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that the heads were cut off to remove the evidence.
The USDA has announced that, in an unusual move, it is conducting a criminal investigation and may actually hold someone accountable.
No one has been reported ill from the suspect Rancho meat, but the fact the recall extends back a year could obscure any problems. The slaughterhouse, the last in the Bay Area, was recently bought by Marin Sun Farms, a gourmet farm-to-table meat producer in Marin County that specializes in pasture-raised livestock.
The USDA list of retailers covers businesses in 35 states and Guam. There are also recalls underway in five provinces of Canada. Retailers include Walmart, 7-Eleven, Circle K and Safeway. The meat comes in many forms: Hot Pockets, burgers and frozen taquitos.
The massive recall began February 8 after a stutter step by the feds. The USDA sent Rancho Feeding a suspension letter on January 14 over 41,683 pounds of meat that had been produced and shipped to California stores six days earlier. The USDA said the products are considered “adulterated, because they are unsound, unwholesome or otherwise are unfit for human food” because they weren’t inspected.
That was the same description it gave when the recall list exploded in February.