Hanford's Valley Meat Co. reopens after fixing 'unsanitary conditions'

The Fresno BeeFebruary 19, 2014 

A truck pulling a livestock trailer leaves Central Valley Meat Company in Hanford in 2012 during a federally ordered shutdown. Central Valley Meat reopened Wednesday after being closed by federal inspectors on Monday February 17, 2014, because of unsanitary conditions.

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A Hanford meat processing plant that was closed by federal inspectors on Monday because of unsanitary conditions has reopened.

Central Valley Meat Co., a supplier for the National School Lunch Program, resumed operations after taking corrective action to fix the problem.

Neither the company nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture disclosed what those unsanitary conditions were. The USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service withdrew its inspectors from the plant on Monday after violations were found.

Company officials on Wednesday said in a statement: "Central Valley Meat Co. makes every effort to maintain our facility to the highest operational standard. When presented with the finding of unsanitary conditions by our USDA oversight team, we took immediate action."

A longtime central San Joaquin Valley company, Central Valley Meat has had its share of trouble over the past two years.

Last fall, the 50-year-old company recalled more than 147,000 pounds of ground beef because it might have contained small pieces of plastic. The meat was shipped to distribution centers in Arkansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, California, Montana and Texas and was intended for the nation's school lunch program.

In August 2012, the company temporarily suspended its operations for a week after the release of an undercover video showing acts of animal cruelty.

The secretly taped video triggered the USDA to withdraw its meat inspectors, preventing the company from operating.

The animal cruelty charges caused fast-food chains McDonalds and In-N-Out Burger to stop buying beef from the company, and the government temporarily suspended its beef purchases for the national school lunch program.

In 2011, the federal government bought 21 million pounds of meat from the company for the school lunch and other nutrition programs.

After a week, the USDA lifted the suspension. Company officials said changes were made to how it handled animals, including quarterly training for workers and more frequent audits. Video surveillance cameras were installed in the plant.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, brodriguez@fresnobee.com or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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