BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Two cattle operations and dairies in southwestern Idaho have agreed to stop drugging cows at such high levels that the medications could pass to human consumers in response to a lawsuit from the federal government.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sued T & T Cattle and T & T Cattle Pearl, both dairy farms and livestock dealers in Parma, along with owner Gregory T. Troost and manager Mark A. Mourton earlier this month in Boise's U.S. District Court. In the complaint, the FDA contended that animals at the farms were given medications in such high doses that once they were sold for human consumption their meat contained illegally high drug residue levels.
Attorneys for the FDA said the residue levels could be dangerous for some consumers.
"The ingestion of edible animal tissues containing residues of unsafe new animal drugs can cause serious allergic reactions in drug-sensitive consumers," the agency wrote in the complaint. "In addition, such food poses the hazard of contributing to the creation of drug-resistant strains of bacteria in humans who eat or handle the food."
Under the agreement filed in federal court Wednesday, the farm operators said they would keep better treatment records, refrain from selling animals that have illegally high drug residue in their tissues for human consumption, and stop using animal medications in unapproved ways.
"We're working wholeheartedly with the FDA and trying to get this whole matter resolved," said Troost on Thursday. "Our action plan is in place and I think it's working very well so far."
Troost said the lawsuit came after inspectors found high drug residue levels in a cow from the farm in July 2012.
"We've put an action plan in place after we got the letter in August, and we have not had another drug residue cow ever since," Troost said.
In the lawsuit, the FDA said the T & T livestock operations and dairies had problems with medications and animals dating to 2002. During the agency's most recent inspections, according to the lawsuit, Troost and Mourton acknowledged that they had treated a condition called metrius - inflammation of the uterus - in their cows by injecting 25 milliliters of a broad spectrum antibiotic into the animal. The FDA says that's above the allowable dosage of 15 milliliters per injection site and that the higher dosage could result in illegal drug residues left in the animal's meat or milk.
Similar problems were found at the farm by the FDA in 2010, that time with a different antibiotic called sulfadimethoxine. The lawsuit said the 2010 inspection occurred as part of a follow-up after the farms sold a cow for slaughter that had an illegal drug residue in its liver that was more than 28 times higher than allowed, and more than 16 times higher than the allowable limit in muscle tissue.
The FDA said there were problems with penicillin residue in animals in 2006 and 2002 as well, and that throughout the years inspections showed that the farms failed to keep adequate treatment records or inventory records of the medications kept at the sites.
The agreement filed in court says that now both sides agree the farms have implemented a system that ensures better records and identification methods for the cattle, and that they now have a quarantine and segregation system that will allow workers to easily tell which animals have been medicated and which ones have not. That should effectively prevent the farm from selling animals with illegal drug residues for human consumption, according to the agreement.
The stipulation says the court will have oversight over the farm for five years, and that any violations will cost the farms $1000 a day until they are fixed. Any cattle sold in violation of the agreement can result in a $5000 fine, according to the court documents.