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High Neomycin Levels Found in Vermont Veal Calves

The prescription animal drug Neomycin is an antibiotic. It kills bacteria rapidly by suppressing protein synthesis and growth.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tolerance level is 7.2 parts per million (PPM) for neomycin in the kidneys of cattle.

Health officials fear that when antibiotics like Neomycin get into the food supply at higher levels, the practice could contribute to humans building up resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics.

That’s why FDA regulates the use of drugs in animal agriculture.  On a recent inspection of Vermont’s Longway Farm, located near Swanton, FDA found Bob veal calves being sold for slaughter as food with higher than tolerated levels of neomycin.

In an Oct. 5 warning letter to Longway Farm, FDA said the animals the dairy was offering for sale were adulterated because of the improper use of animal drugs.  Three Bob veal calves sold on March 15 and 29, and slaughtered the next day, were found with 17.25 PPM; 21.58 PPM; and 8.25 PPM of neomycin in their kidney tissues.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service conducted the tissue analysis.

“Our investigation also found that you hold animals under conditions that are so inadequate that medicated animals bearing potentially harmful residues are likely to enter the food supply,” the warning letter said.  “You lack an adequate system to ensure that animals medicated by you have been withheld from slaughter for appropriate periods of time to permit depletion of potentially hazardous residues of drugs from edible tissue.”

FDA said Longway Farm also lacks an inventory system for keeping track of the quantities of drugs used to medicate animals.

FDA told the Vermont dairy that if it does not address the problems promptly, it could face further regulatory actions, including seizure and/or injunction.  

The dairy was given 15 days to respond to the warning letter, and must give specific reasons for any delays in complying.

About one to two dairy farms per week get warning letters from FDA about animal drug abuse,  Most involve excessive use of antibiotics.

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