Federal tests find drug residues in cows sold for slaughter

By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI

Capital Press

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has accused a dairy farm company in Idaho of repeatedly introducing tainted meat into the food supply.

The agency has filed a legal complaint claiming that G&H Dairy, of Twin Falls, Idaho, violated federal law by using excessive doses of veterinary drugs and selling cattle adulterated with these substances for slaughter.

The complaint names the company's owners, Jesus Hurtado, Gilbert Hurtado and John Gomez, as plaintiffs. Capital Press was unable to reach the attorney representing G&H Dairy in the case.

According to the lawsuit, several livers and kidneys of animals sold by the dairy company since 2007 were found by USDA to contain higher-than-allowable drug residues.

In some cases, the drug residues were many times greater than the tolerance level for the medicine, the complaint said.

For example, the complaint said a liver from an animal slaughtered in 2009 contained more than 100 times the tolerance level of the antibiotic sulfadimethoxine.

A test in 2006 detected flunixin, an anti-inflammatory drug, in an animal's liver at more than six times the tolerance level, according to the complaint.

"Such laboratory results indicate that defendants failed to administer these drugs in accordance with the dosage, withdrawal period limitations and/or other use requirements," the complaint said.

Excessive levels of such drugs may render the meat unsafe to eat in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the agency said.

The FDA claims the company's three dairy facilities were inspected several times after tissue samples indicated excessive drug levels.

The inspections revealed that G&H Dairy had used medicine without a prescription, failed to maintain adequate treatment records and didn't follow label directions, the complaint said.

"On numerous occasions, FDA and USDA have warned defendants that their conduct violates the act and have emphasized the importance of complying with the law," the complaint said.

In July, the FDA won an injunction in a similar case that prohibited Rhody Dairy in Sumas, Wash., from selling cattle into the food supply until it overhauled its record-keeping system and met other conditions related to veterinary drugs.

The company challenged the ruling in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but then dropped its appeal in October.

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