Workers at the Rancho Feeding Corp. were up to something pretty stomach-churning while inspectors were on their lunch break, according to a federal indictment: They slaughtered cows with eye cancer, hid the heads in gut bins, and placed the heads of healthy cows next to the carcasses. The co-owners and two employees of the northern California slaughterhouse have been indicted on charges of conspiring to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat, as well as mail fraud for selling some of the beef through the post, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The indictment also alleges that slaughterhouse workers were ordered to carve out the "USDA Condemned" stamps from cows condemned by inspectors and process them anyway. The disturbing allegations first surfaced earlier this year, soon after 8.7 million pounds of potentially "unsound" beef and veal products linked to the plant were recalled, affecting companies including Nestle, Walmart, and Kroger. The defendants named in the rare federal indictment face up to 20 years if found guilty. "There are very few criminal prosecutions generally in food cases, and there are very few and far between in meat cases," a food safety attorney tells KQED. "They're facing some severe jail time and some severe fines." (Read more slaughterhouse stories.)