Union: Federal inspector reported problems at Petaluma slaughterhouse

A federal food inspector at Rancho Feeding Corp. repeatedly criticized practices inside the Petaluma slaughterhouse now at the center of an international meat recall and an ongoing criminal investigation, according to union officials.

The inspector at Rancho thought her supervising veterinarian had approved "questionable" dairy cows for slaughter during a five-month period last year, according to a union official who said he has reviewed documents detailing the inspector's accounts.

The federal inspector also alleged that employees at the Petaluma plant had mistreated animals, improperly discharged wastewater and subjected her to harassment, said Paul Carney, president of the Western Council of the National Joint Council of Inspection Locals, the federal meat inspectors union.

The inspector's concerns, which upset plant management, were often ignored by her supervisor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Carney said, citing documents that he has reviewed. She was moved to another plant in November, he said.

He criticized the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, saying the agency did not support the inspector or intervene at Rancho to resolve problems at the plant.

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