Federal regulators are looking at a raw pork-related incident connected to a Winton-area meat company that caught online attention late last week, officials confirmed.
Jim's Farm Meat in Winton, which is owned by Turlock-based Clausen Meat Co., is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the department confirmed this week, but officials did not immediately release reports on the most recent inspections of the company.
Photos were taken by Loretta Seto showing exposed meat entering 99 Ranch Market in San Jose on Jan. 14. The wholesaler has not returned requests for comment since speaking on Saturday.
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The USDA issued a statement regarding 99 Ranch Market. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is committed to protecting public health by ensuring the safety of the nation's meat supply," the statement said. "The agency is working with local authorities and will determine further actions as information becomes available."
Regulators would not say if the meat company's actions were within regulations.
The images of the raw meat uncovered in a cart were unusual, according to Christian Valdez, whose family owns Carniceria El Guero in Merced. The meat typically comes from a warehouse to a butcher's shop in bags and boxes, he said.
"We can't have the meat like that outside," he said on Thursday. "It has to be at certain temperatures at certain times,"
USDA regulations say refrigerated trucks must be no warmer than 26 degrees, and meat must not be allowed to get above 40 degrees while being transferred from the truck to a walk-in freezer.
Valdez said his shop's meat comes from Fresno, Modesto and other suppliers, but he does not have experience with Jim's Farm Meat. The Merced butcher shop received a "good" rating on its latest inspection from the Merced County Public Health Department.
The meat comes in on a refrigerated truck in both bags and boxes and goes straight into a freezer, where it's stored until the butcher is ready to carve it into taco meat, steaks or whatnot, Valdez said.
"If you have it out too long, that's when it starts catching germs," he said.
The Facebook page that shared the photos of raw pork in carts has since been shared almost 2,400 times.
Speaking Saturday to The Modesto Bee, Maria Moon, office manager at Jim's Farm Meat, confirmed the meat came from her company and said it is investigating the matter, which it learned about on Friday.
She said she could not explain why the two employees – shown in the photos carting the raw meat into the store – would have removed the meat from the wrap and cardboard combo bins where she said the pork generally is housed during delivery.
She said both employees have been fired.
"We are thoroughly investigating the incident," she said. "This isn't anything we typically do. When we send our products out, they are always in a combo bin and wrapped. That's how it left our facility."