Apr 20, 2014 Last Updated: 01:52 AM EDT

California Slaughterhouse Accused of Selling Meat From Cows with Cancer

Feb 27, 2014 01:27 PM EST | By Dina Exil

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The slaughterhouse under criminal investigation for selling cows with cancer. (Photo : Wiki Commons )

The slaughterhouse that recalled 8.7 million pounds of beef, and led Nestle to voluntarily recall its Philly Cheese Steak Hot Pockets, is now in the center of a criminal investigation by the federal government.

According to SFGate, an anonymous source is claiming that the Rancho Feeding Corp. sold meat from dairy cows that were sick with eye cancer. Rancho allegedly purchased cows with the cancer, but tried to hide it from inspectors by chopping off the cows' heads and illegally selling the meat.

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The source said the U.S. Department of Agriculture found a crucial piece of evidence after an investigator followed a Rancho truck from Petaluma to a meat rendering plant near Sacramento. The investigator found that the cow heads did not match carcasses.

"Rancho, we're told, was slaughtering them, somehow after hours or in other ways where the inspector didn't know about it," the source revealed. "Because the carcass looked good, (Rancho) mixed it back in with other beef that it sold under its label."

SFGate reports that while it is illegal to sell meat from animals with cancer, it "isn't likely to make people sick." USDA officials has not yet commented on the ongoing investigations. Rancho's lawyers have forbidden employees from speaking to the media.

Federal law forbids meat from diseased cows from being sold for human consumption.

Bill Niman, the former owner of Niman Ranch, processed his cattle at Rancho and said his products were always separate from the tainted meat in question. He told the Village Voice that he also speculates the plant may have been processing cows with eye cancer, adding that it is one of the only planets that slaughters retired dairy cows, some which are in poor health

"A farmer sends a cow in with cancer, and he knows it has cancer-eye -- it's a growth on the eye, this is not a microbial situation," Niman told the Village Voice. "The inspectors, they know it has cancer-eye. So the farmer shouldn't have sent it, and the inspector should have caught it."

If it turns out to be true, how should the USDA handle the case?

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