The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 11, 2008

USDA briefly suspends Cargill

Employees sent home after harvest section shut down

OTTUMWA — A number of employees were sent home early from work Tuesday when the “harvest” section of the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Ottumwa was shut down due to an alleged U.S. Department of Agriculture violation.

Amanda Eamich, spokeswoman for the Food Safety and Inspection Service Department of the USDA, would only provide a few details of an incident related to a loose hog at the facility.

She said if animals are loose, they have the potential of hurting themselves or others and that could be considered an “inhumane practice.”

“We issued [Cargill] a notice of suspension, which has been placed in abidance,” Eamich said Tuesday afternoon. “As soon as we’ve OK’d their corrective action plan, they can go ahead and start to operate again. It’s all up to how soon the company can respond. We don’t prescribe how things are done. We just have to OK their plan of action for correcting the situation.”

Late Tuesday, Cargill Plant Manager Randy Zorn told the Courier that the situation had been resolved and a corrective action plan had been issued.

“We communicated closely with the USDA and there was a careful understanding between the company and the USDA,” he said.

Zorn said the incident involved just one loose hog and the matter would be evaluated and investigated further by company officials.

“We take pride in knowing we adhere to standards set by the American Meat Institute and the USDA guidelines,” he said. “Our process is monitored and audited from the time the trucks arrive here through the entire process.”

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the plant was back in operation on the harvest floor, Zorn added.

“When we see something, we will act immediately to resolve it,” Eamich said.

Scott Niles can be reached at (641) 683-5360 or via e-mail at sjniles@mchsi.com.

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