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Meat plants said to face shortages of inspectors

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The Agriculture Department is suffering from a shortage of inspectors at some of the nation’s meat and poultry plants, a top inspectors’ union official and a food safety group said this week, raising the possibility that contaminated products could reach consumers.

The warning comes just over a week after the agency issued a recall for nearly 9 million pounds of beef processed at the Rancho Feeding Corp. in Petaluma, Calif. The department said the meat was shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments nationwide, even though it lacked a full federal inspection.

The meat was sent to about 1,000 retailers in Alabama, California, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

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