Stricter Scrutiny Ahead Feds renew focus on drug residues

October 12, 2009 07:00 PM
Follow proper drug use and adhere to withdrawal times to avoid being placed on FSIS' repeat violators list.

U.S. meatpacking plants are facing stricter scrutiny from federal regulators over drug residues in animal carcasses. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is stepping up monitoring and enforcement efforts to ensure meatpackers—and suppliers—meet federal regulations to identify hazardous substances and prevent them from appearing in meat destined for the human food supply.

In particular, FSIS will renew its focus on same source suppliers with multiple residue violations. These could be sales yards, haulers or brokers. But based on the weekly report on FSIS' Web site, the majority of violations come from dairies, says Richard Breitmeyer, state veterinarian with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Multiple violations may indicate that a plant's Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system isn't sufficient.

Implemented in 1998, the system was designed to protect the food supply from hazardous substances in animal carcasses. HACCP set "very comprehensive requirements” for packing plants, Breitmeyer says.

But growing public concern about food safety and continued drug-residue violations have spurred FSIS to intensify its oversight. The agency has reportedly hired 40 new inspectors and will add 20 more in 2010.

Slaughter plants are in a tough spot, says Jeremy Russell of the National Meat Association. "The government is putting pressure on the industry to monitor who we're buying from,” he says. Although a disproportionate percentage of repeat drug-residue violators are in California and Pennsylvania, Russell says, FSIS enforcement will be uniform across the nation.

New in FSIS efforts is the online list of same source suppliers who have tested positive for drug residues more than once within 12 months. Plants that buy from repeat violators may receive increased inspection and residue sampling. Recurring violations could result in on-farm inspections by the Food and Drug Administration, fines and even criminal prosecution. That means plants will be closely watching the repeat violators list.

Michael Payne, program director for the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, says: "For the small percentage of producers who've had difficulty marketing dairy beef without drug residues, this scrutiny from USDA could be the first step down the road to legal proceedings.”


To avoid drug-residue problems with your cull cows:

Keep good records. Prior to shipping, review your record-keeping system until you're comfortable that all treatments have been recorded, especially regarding the withdrawal period.

Use according to label. Particularly make sure you follow the proper drug dosage.

Trust the experts. Work with your veterinarian to take every precaution to ensure that your animal is drug-free when it reaches the slaughterhouse.

Bonus content:

Residue Testing; National Residue Program (includes weekly "Same Source Supplier - Residue Violator List”)

How to proceed in establishments that have multiple FSIS laboratroy confirmed residue violations from the same source supplier.

"Drug and Toxin Prevention on the Dairy” video from University of California-Davis

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