Federal Judge Gordon Jay Quist found that cows owned by Scenic View Dairy had antibiotic levels too high for the animals to be sold for slaughter as human food, but he does not want to see the farm shut down.

The U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Michigan called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to meet with Scenic Dairy and come up with some agreement by the end of September.

Quist sided with the government in finding that Scenic View violated federal law by selling cows with high levels of antibiotics for human food, but the judge said it was not his intention to put the large dairy out of business.

With 10,000 head of dairy cattle, the Hamilton-based Scenic View Dairy is located near the Michigan communities of Freeport, Gowen and Fennville.  Quist found that the dairy’s “violative conduct” involved all three locations and has gone on for years, despite repeated notices from FDA.

FDA has been sending warning letters to Scenic View Dairy since at least 2002 and the agency has documented at least 11 instances of animal drug misuse at the Michigan dairy.

While most of its cows are milk producers, the dairy also sends a steady flow of animals off for slaughter.

The defense argued that the charges against Scenic View were dated and no longer significant for a dairy handling thousands of animals, which they contend posed no health threat. The government countered that anyone allergic to antibiotics could have harmful reactions to meat laced with such drug residues.

While holding off any penalty until the dairy and FDA try to work something out, Quist called for the dairy to keep better records — a suggestion FDA has made in past warning letters.

Quist, 74,  was appointed to the federal bench by former President George H.W. Bush.   He is currently on “senior status” with the Western District of Michigan.

Most weeks find FDA sending several warning letters to dairy farms about threats to the human food supply from animal drug misuse.  Other recent examples include:

Date: Aug. 11,  2011

Dairy:  Michael P. Ferry Inc.

Address: Westport, MA

Drug(s):  Neomycin and Gentamicin

FDA: New England

Link: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm268237.htm

Date: Aug. 19, 2011

Dairy:  Windy Ridge

Address: Fair Oaks, IN

Drug(s):  Penicillin

FDA: Detroit District

Link: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm270251.htm

Date: Aug. 25,  2011

Dairy:  Edelweiss Farms Inc.

Address: Freedom, NY

Drug(s):  flunixin meglumine 

FDA: New York

Link: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm270719.htm