Six months after federal investigators swarmed the Rancho Feeding Corp. slaughterhouse and shuttered operations amidst an 8.7 million pound international beef recall, little has been said about the status of the investigation and whether Rancho’s proprietors will face criminal charges.
“We are not commenting in any way on that case,” said Lili AraúzHaase, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which launched its own investigation shortly after the United States Department of Agriculture began its probe in January.
The silence is deafening for Congressman Jared Huffman, who expressed frustration with the lack of transparency and resolution.
“You have to complete an investigation and make those results public, you can’t just leave an entire community hanging,” lamented Huffman.
In January, USDA inspectors announced the sweeping recall, which included all meat processed at Rancho in 2013 because it “did not get the full benefit of inspection.” Later reports stated that Rancho employees were processing cattle known to be sick with ocular cancer while federal inspectors were not on site, a violation of federal food safety laws. No illness was reported related to the recall, but dozens of grass-fed beef ranchers lost their right to sell any of the products they had processed at the slaughterhouse in 2013, because all meat from Rancho Feeding Corp. was deemed “tainted.”
It took only a matter of weeks to shut down the Petaluma plant, owned by Petaluma residents Jesse “Babe” Amaral and Robert Singleton, but months later the status of both the USDA and U.S. Attorney’s Office investigations remain a mystery.
Huffman said his office has asked USDA officials for the outcome of any of its prior investigations, but has only gotten “radio silence” in return.
“What we want to know is were any investigations ever completed (by USDA), and what did those investigations show?” Huffman said. “Frankly, we’ve been sending lots of messages that have been ignored.”
Huffman said with no assistance from USDA, he’s directed his own staff to explore the results of other recall investigations, most of which have led to dead ends. It seems, at least anecdotally, that the outcomes of other USDA investigations were never made public.
“We don’t want that to happen here, we’re not going to let that happen here,” Huffman said.