Rancho Feeding Corp. of Petaluma wants customers to return those 30-pound boxes of “beef cheeks,” “beef lips” and “beef head” they've been ordering for the past year, although it's safe to assume that much of it has already been consumed.
In all, the slaughterhouse recalled 8.7 million pounds of beef and cow parts from suspected diseased and unhealthy animals that allegedly did not receive a full inspection from the federal government. The meat products were shipped to distribution centers in California, Texas, Florida and Illinois between January 1, 2013 and January 7 of this year, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) investigated the company.
There have been no reported incidents of illness although the story itself may generate a few cases of nausea. CNN reported that it was unclear what companies eventually bought the products and whether the meat parts made their way to restaurants and markets in some form.
This recall announcement, which includes tripe, tongue, feet, “mountain oysters” and “sweet breads,” follows two recalls last month that totaled more than 40,000 pounds of meat products by the company, formerly known as Rancho Veal Corp.
Those recalls were of meat parts shipped within California to the Del Monte Meat Co. in American Canyon, C&M Meat Company in Berkeley, LaMorenita Market and Vallergas’s Market in Napa, Del Monte Meat Co. and Prime Smoked Meats in Oakland, and RBR Meats in Vernon, according to Food News Service. The company reportedly processed the food without antemortem inspections required by federal regulations.
After those initial recalls, the USDA ordered a two-week suspension at the plant. When it reopened, Rancho manager Scott Parks told the Point Reyes Light, “We’re back open, and we’ve implemented different procedures to make sure that everything is exactly right.”
One ranch owner who does business with Rancho speculated that the problem was just an isolated incident that involved the failure to sign certain inspection paperwork. “It was probably an inadvertent mistake, but we’re all paying for it,” Mike Gale of Chileno Valley Ranch said.
Gale warned that any ongoing problems at the meat processor was bad news for the region. “Any threat to Rancho is a real threat to all of the type of agriculture we have in all of the North Bay,” Gale said. That was two weeks before the much larger recall, which does not appear to be due to inadvertent mistakes.
The recall is considerably larger than the usual, all-too-common recalls. But it is much smaller than the record 2008 recall of 143 million pounds by California's Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company.
The government classified its action as a Class 1Recall with a “high” health risk. A Class 1 classification means, “This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”