USDA closes troubled Central Valley slaughterhouse over cleanliness
A troubled Central California slaughterhouse that supplies beef to the National School Lunch Program was closed by federal inspectors Monday for failing to meet cleanliness standards.
Operations at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford, Calif., about 30 miles south of Fresno, will be suspended indefinitely until the company produces a corrective plan, inspectors said.
The same facility was closed for a week in 2012 after animal rights group Compassion Over Killing submitted videos to the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing workers torturing cows with electric prods and spraying them with hot water.
In a separate incident last September, the company recalled 58,000 pounds of beef destined for school lunches after the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it may have contained small pieces of plastic.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said little about what triggered the latest closure. A recall was not issued, which suggests the problem was not an immediate public threat to safety.
“FSIS withdrew our inspectors and suspended operations due to insanitary conditions at the establishment. The plant’s suspension will be lifted once we receive adequate assurances of corrective action,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.
Central Valley Meat did not respond to a request for comment.
“This facility has a history of rampant animal abuse, so it’s not surprising that it’s also having issues with unsanitary conditions,” said Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing.
The revelation of abuse in 2012 cost the company its relationship as a beef supplier to In-N-Out at the time. McDonald’s and the USDA’s national lunch program also suspended purchases. But federal inspectors were never able to determine that the cruel treatment of the animals compromised food safety.
That allowed the slaughterhouse to reopen after it submitted a corrective action plan that included training employees to properly use electric prods and prohibiting the company from receiving cows that could not stand or walk.
The company said at the time it would establish “a new industry standard for the handling of animals.”
It’s unclear how much beef Central Valley Meat sells to the USDA. Food Safety News, a website published by Seattle attorney Bill Marler, reported that the company sold nearly $50 million in beef to the USDA from October 2010 to September 2011.
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