FDA stops Antibiotic-Tainted Cattle

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against a Vermont dairy farm for selling cows and bull calves, containing illegal amounts of antibiotics, for food.

According to an FDA press release, the decree prevents Lawson Farm from purchasing or selling any animals for use as food unless and until they take certain actions to assure that animals containing excessive amounts of antibiotics do not enter the food supply. The farm is also required to keep written records identifying which animals have been medicated and to maintain an inventory of medications.

The FDA previously issued a Warning Letter to Lawson Farm for similar violations, citing instances of penicillin levels nearly four times the legal limit in the animals.  Inspections of the farm revealed that defendants administered animal drugs, including penicillin, without a prescription and did not maintain adequate treatment records to prevent treated cattle from entering the food supply.

Dangers of Antibiotics in the Food Supply

Ingesting food containing excessive levels of antibiotics and other drugs can cause severe adverse reactions among the general population. Even at very low levels, they can harm consumers who are sensitive to antibiotics.

Farmers frequently administer low doses of antibiotics to otherwise healthy livestock to make them grow faster with less food and to prevent diseases that arise because of the cramped quarters the animals are forced to live in, often teeming with their own waste. Studies show this practice can contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs.”

Earlier this year, the CDC reported a rise in drug-resistant germs called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. The agency stated CRE have become more resistant to last-resort antibiotics during the past decade.  These bacteria are causing more hospitalized patients to get infections that, in some cases, are impossible to treat.

To help prevent CRE Infection, patients should:

  • Tell your doctor if you have been hospitalized in another facility or country.
  • Take antibiotics only as prescribed.
  • Expect all doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after touching your body or tubes going into your body.
  • Clean your own hands often.
  • Ask questions. Understand what is being done to you, the risks and benefits.

Sources:

“FDA, Justice Department takes action against Vermont dairy farm” Food and Drug Administration, July 9, 2013

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)Centers for Disese Control and Prevention, accessed July 11, 2013.

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