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No recall ordered at shuttered Central Valley slaughterhouse

August 22, 2012 |  7:25 am

Federal officials who found evidence of inhumane treatment of cows at Central Valley Meat Co., a Central California slaughterhouse, said they have no information to suggest that the company endangered the public food supply or engaged in acts that would trigger a meat recall
Federal officials who found evidence of inhumane treatment of cows at a Central California slaughterhouse said they have no information to suggest that the company endangered the public food supply or engaged in acts that would trigger a meat recall.

Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford was closed indefinitely after regulators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reviewed video from Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights group that said it had footage of "torture" and intentional cruelty to cows.

Though federal officials called that information disturbing, they said the video offered nothing to indicate that meat from injured, disabled or "non-ambulatory" cows had entered the food supply.

Such a practice, if confirmed, would violate federal food safety regulations and trigger a recall, officials said. The agency's investigation is ongoing.

"We have reviewed the video and determined that, while some of the footage provided shows unacceptable treatment of cattle, it does not show anything that would compromise food safety," said Al Almanza, administrator of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. "Therefore, we have not substantiated a food safety violation at this time."

In the wake of the federal government's findings, Irvine-based In-N-Out Burger severed its relationship with Central Valley Meat, saying it does not condone animal cruelty from its suppliers.

Central Valley Meat co. President Brian Coelho said his company is cooperating with federal investigators and has an outside animal welfare expert to conduct an internal investigation.

Compassion Over Killing said earlier this week that one of its contractors took a job with the meat processing company in June and July and captured video of cows being jabbed, hit, electrically shocked and sprayed with hot water.

"It's egregious. It's unnecessary. We're trying to shine a spotlight into what's happening inside the slaughterhouses, because this is not an isolated incident," said Erica Meier, the group's executive director.

Federal investigators visited California last week to review two videos, one running three hours and the other three minutes.

Central Valley Meat Co. has already been under scrutiny from Cal/OSHA, which has issued three citations to the company in two years -- one of them involving 72-year-old Leopoldo Gutierrez, an employee who was crushed to death in a meat grinder.

In that incident, state officials concluded that the company had failed to make sure the power was off before the worker climbed inside, according to state records.

The company filed appeals in two of the three cases, including the one that focused on Gutierrez's death, according to a Cal/OSHA official.

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-- David Zahniser
twitter.com/davidzahniser

Photo: A security guard opens the gate Tuesday at Central Valley Meat Co., the California slaughterhouse shut down by federal regulators. Credit: Gosia Wozniacka / Associated Press

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