Used for horses and cattle in the U.S., for dogs in some countries and even for elephants in others, flunixin meglumine is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent.

Flunixin meglumine comes up a lot when USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service(FSIS) goes looking for chemical residues in the edible tissues of animals being slaughtered for human food.

At a Pennsylvania dairy farm and a veal calf operation in Ohio recently, levels of flunixin meglumine levels were too high,  causing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  to send both agricultural businesses warning letters about their practices.

In a March 18 warning letter to Ohio’s Horizon Acres, a veal calf operation near Dalton, FDA said a veal calf sold on or about last June 22 for slaughter as food was tested by FSIS.  FDA said the tests found flunixin residents  in liver tissues.

The tests  showed 0.28 parts per million (ppm) of flunixin in the liver tissue.  That’s more than double the tolerance level set by FDA,  which is 0.125 ppm.

“However, this tolerance does not apply to use of Suppressor (flunixin meglumine) Injectable Solution, ANADA 200-308, in veal calves (pre-ruminating calves), and there is no acceptable level of residue associated with use of flunixin meglumine in veal calves (pre-ruminating calves),” the warning letter said.

FDA said  the presence of this drug in edible tissue in this amount causes the food to be considered adulterated.

In the subsequent investigation, the veal producer was allegedly found misusing several other animal drugs including: dexamethasone, ceftiofur sodium, penicillin G procaine, amoxicillin, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, and chlortetracycline.

Horizon Acres was charged with administering those animal drugs without following label instructions with regard to dosages and withdrawal periods. It also adulterated liquid animal feed.

In a March 22 warning letter to the Mark S. Zimmerman Farm at Martinsburg, PA,  the agency said flunixin residues at 0.121 ppm were found in the liver tissue of a bob veal calf sold for slaughter by the dairy.

FDA also told Zimmerman that no flunixin residue is allowed in the edible tissue of veal calves.

The dairy farm was not using flunixin as directed on the label, FDA said.

Both bob veal calf sellers were given 15 days to respond to the concerns FDA raised in their warning letters.

In instruction bulletins issued earlier this week, FSIS announced that it was stepping up testing for chemical residues in animals being slaughtered. The addition tests will occur through actions by both USDA veterinarians and FSIS on-site inspectors.

Chemical residues in animals slaughtered for human consumption are carefully regulated to minimize or eliminate their presence in meat or milk to safety levels based on FDA-established tolerance levels. Residues, usually from animal drugs, can cause allergic reactions and antimicrobials can cause antibiotic resistance to certain “superbugs.”

Animal drug residues are often higher if suggested withdrawal periods are not followed, dosages are excessive or extended, or proper records are not kept.