An owner of a Northern California slaughterhouse at the center of a massive beef recall has pleaded guilty to knowingly processing cancer-ridden cattle for human consumption, despite USDA veterinarians warnings that the beef was unsafe.
Jesse Amaral Jr., former co-owner of the now defunct Petaluma-based Rancho Feeding Corporation, admitted to distributing pathogen-ridden beef that had not passed inspection by the US Department of Food and Agriculture.
USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong released Friday some disturbing findings from her investigation of Rancho Feeding Corp., according to which the company had processed almost nine million pounds of beef cut from “diseased and unsound animals.”
Inspector Fong’s testimony to the House of Representatives explained Amaral told his plant foreman, Felix Cabrera, to have employees get rid of the “USDA-Condemned” stamps on dead cows that had been determined unfit for human consumption.
Cabrera was told to ignore procedures for preventing the distribution of meat from cows with “cancer eye.” Prosecutors said employees were instructed to replace the heads of sick cows with those from healthy ones.
“This switch and slaughter of uninspected cows with cancer eye occurred during the FSIS [Food Safety and Inspection Service] inspector’s lunch breaks, a time during which plant operations were supposed to cease,” Fong detailed in her testimony.
Amaral is the third person to plead guilty in a wider conspiracy investigation centered on the slaughterhouse that sparked a series of recalls, including one for 8.7 million pounds of beef.
Another co-owner pleaded guilty last year, saying he had employees swap the heads of diseased cattle for healthy ones.