Antibiotic misuse in animals – one example

Via the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the excellent blog Fair Food Fight comes the story of two cows, from two Minnesota farms, that have been reprimanded by the US Food and Drug Administration for bringing cows to slaughter that turned out to have been massively overdosed with antibiotics.

From the Strib:

In a rare move, federal officials sent stern warning letters to two central Minnesota dairy farms, which were among only 30 farms nationwide reprimanded so far this year for violating the rules governing how animal drugs can be used.
J&L Dairy, in Clarissa, Minn., sent a dairy cow to slaughter in March, even though it was drugged with 129 times the amount of penicillin allowed under federal regulations.
Another farm, Evergreen Acres Dairy, LLC, in Paynesville, Minn., was warned by the FDA last month, after one of its cows was found to have more than four times the allowed amount for a certain type of antibiotic. Further inspection found that the farm had misused 10 other drugs. (Byline Lora Pabst)

From one of the FDA’s reprimand letters, to J&L Dairy of Clarissa, Minn.:

Our investigation … found that you hold animals under conditions that are so inadequate that medicated animals bearing potentially harmful drug residues are likely to enter the food supply. … Our investigation found that you routinely administered penicillin G procaine to dairy cows without following the daily dosage amount or dosage amount per injection site as stated in the approved labeling. Your extralabel use of penicillin G procaine was not under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, in violation of 21 CFR 530.11 (a), and your extralabel use of penicillin G procaine resulted in illegal drug residue, in violation of 21 CFR 530.11(d).

From the other reprimand letter, to Evergreen Acres Dairy of Paynesville, Minn.:

Our investigation … found that you hold animals under conditions that are so inadequate that medicated animals bearing potentially harmful drug residues are likely to enter the food supply.
…The investigation … found that you adulterated the new animal drugs neomycin sulfate, sulfadimethoxine oral solution, oxytetracycline injection, oxytetracycline hydrochloride injection, ceftiofur hydrochloride, ceftiofur crystalline free acid, ceftiofur sodium, penicillin G procaine aqueous suspension, florfenicol, tetracycline hydrochloride soluble powder, and tylosin. Specifically, the investigation revealed that you did not use these drugs as directed by their approved labeling. Use of these drugs contrary to their approved labeling is an extralabel use.

There are some important points to make here.

As we’ve talked about before, many of the antibiotics used in food animals are effectively over-the-counter drugs; farmers can buy them in feed stores and administer them without a veterinarian’s supervision. (Putting an end to OTC animal antibiotics is the goal of Rep. Louise Slaughter’s legislation, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), supported by the Obama Administration supports; post here.) Without such supervision, it is easier for a farmer to make a mistake in dosing, or to give the drugs too close to animal’s slaughter time, so that the drug’s don’t wash out of the animal’s system but remain in its meat after death.

A second important point is that we talk a lot here about the dangers of industrial-scale farming, in which antibiotics are given to animals that are not sick, either in small doses as growth promoters or in treatment-size doses to prevent illness spreading through a flock or herd. Antibiotic misuse has become linked in the public mind with the enormous animal-raising operations known as CAFOs. But both these reprimanded farms were family farms, not CAFOs. These reprimands underline that inappropriate antibiotic use is not a function of farm size — it’s a by-product of market pressure.


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