North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson criticized federal regulators Wednesday for failing to answer his questions about the growing Rancho Feeding Corporation meat recall.
Thompson joined a chorus of food safety experts and North Bay ranchers who have complained the U.S. Department of Agriculture is releasing few details about the reasons underlying the decision to recall all beef processed at Rancho's Petaluma plant last year.
In particular, those who raise pasture-fed cattle have protested that their high-end beef is under recall even though the animals were sound and free of disease.
“What I'm troubled by most right now is the inability to get good information on what is happening,” said Thompson, D-St. Helena.
Thompson said he spoke with a deputy agriculture secretary Wednesday and pointed out that he regularly receives classified briefings on national security matters as a member of the House
Intelligence Committee. Despite being trusted with such high-level secrets, he said, the USDA “can't tell me about an issue that's affecting my constituents. It's troubling.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asserted that Rancho “processed diseased animals” without a full inspection. The USDA has not received any reports of illness linked to the meat, the agency said Wednesday.
The USDA probe came to light Jan. 10 when federal agents and Petaluma police converged on the plant on Petaluma Boulevard North.
The first recall, announced Jan. 13, initially covered meat processed on a single day. Rancho expanded the recall Feb. 8 to include all 8.7 million pounds of beef processed at its plant in 2013.
More than 1,600 food distributors in the United States and Canada are now recalling beef and other products made with Rancho meat, including two types of Hot Pockets frozen sandwiches and some frozen hamburger patties sold at Walmart.