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Meat recall: Beef and banging? USDA inspector in bed with Rancho Feeding foreman

A meat recall earlier this year, one of the largest beef recalls in California, pulled nearly nine million pounds of beef off of retailer shelves. The story continues however, and it’s not just about a year’s worth of tainted beef from cancerous cows. The USDA inspector overseeing the meat products slaughtered and packaged at the Rancho Feeding Corp. is accused of carrying on an illicit relationship with the plant foreman.

A 9-million pound meat recall story is beefing up after news of an illicit affair between the USDA inspector and a plant manager surfaces.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

According to CNN on May 2, the sickened beef that came from the California meat producer may have reached 35 states. The USDA at the time called the meat USDA's “diseased, unsound and adulterated.” According to the Feb. 8 release from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Rancho Feeding “processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection. Thus, the products are adulterated, because they are unsound, unwholesome or otherwise are unfit for human food and must be removed from commerce.” The USDA listed the health advisory as a Class 1 recall – it’s most serious grouping of recalls.

The deception that went on inside of the Rancho plant was staggering – employees were knowingly processing diseased dairy cows when government inspectors weren’t there. After the contaminated and ailing cows were slaughtered, employees would trim off parts of the cow that had visible signs of cancerous lesions, stamp the meat with a fake approval and in some cases, they even “replaced” the heads of the sick cows with healthy ones.

But that wasn’t the only misconduct going on inside of the plant. The USDA inspector – identified as Lynnette Thompson – who was in charge of oversight at the plant, was sleeping with the foreman, skewing her ability to perform her job impartially. Emails and texts obtained by CNN from the unnamed assistant Rancho plant manager show evidence of Thompson’s tryst with the head man.

“He said he went to her trailer three different times and they were intimate,” according to the e-mail. “She also sent him a picture of her naked back side in a tanning salon to his cell phone.” Attached to the email were screen shots of texts from Thompson to the foreman. “I need a kiss later,” Thompson wrote. In another text, she was worried about the affair becoming public: “Play dumb please 4 my kids delete everything k?” she wrote.

Documents show there was a discordant relationship between Thompson and the other plant officials, reports, and that she had even complained before about the fact that it appeared that the plant was allowing cancerous cows to be processed. But no formal steps were taken to shut down and clean up the plant; no reports were made and no fines were levied against Rancho Feeding. USDA’s own ethics manual prohibits inspectors from being in a “personal relationship with an establishment employee” for these very reasons.

According to CNN, the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco is investigating. Charges against Rancho's owners are forthcoming. To date, no one reported becoming ill after consuming any Rancho Feeding processed meat.

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