Tainted Veal Meal & Weak National Food Monitoring Program for Harmful Residues

Q:  Why Can’t This Veal Calf Walk?  A:  He has only two feet.  Actually less than two feet.

Twenty-two inches to be exact.  His entire life is spent chained in a wooden crate measuring only 22 inches wide and 56 inches long.  The crate is so small that the calf can’t walk or even turn around

Tainted Veal:

According to the USDA, sulfamethazine (a known carcinogen), oxytetracycline, penicillin neomycin, streptomycin, and gentamycin have all previously been found in veal.

[quote & pictures from Humane Farming Association (HFA) Ad.]

Per a USDA Fact Sheet:

Are Hormones and Antibiotics Used in Veal Raising?

  • Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in the veal calf.
  • Penicillin is not used in calf raising:
  • tetracycline has been approved but is not widely used.
  • No hormones are used in veal raising.  While growth-promoting hormones are approved for use in ruminating cattle, they have never been approved for use in non-ruminating veal calves.

Is Clenbuterol Used in the Raising of Veal Calves in the United States?

  • The use of Clenbuterol to raise veal calves is illegal in the United States.
  • Clenbuterol is not a hormone, but a growth-promoting drug in the beta-agonist class of compounds.
  • Clenbuterol residues can affect lung and heart function in persons who have eaten liver or meat of animals given the drug.  USDA considers any residue of Clenbuterol in meat unacceptable because of this.
  • At the present time there have been no reported cases of illness related to Clenbuterol in the United States.
  • See Clenbuterol FDA’s Import Alert of Oct 2009 #68-03


However, although the USDA Fact Sheet claims that Penicillin is not used, a test result from 2001, through “the 2001 FSIS NATIONAL RESIDUE PROGRAM DATA”  noted “One penicillin residue violation was found in bob veal”...from a sample of size of 424 bob veal “to test for antibiotic and sulfonamide residues”.



OIG USDA Audit Report 24601-08-KC March 2010 - “FSIS National Residue Program for Cattle “. . . found that the national residue program is not accomplishing its mission of monitoring the food supply for harmful residues…”

Executive Summary

One of the public food safety issues facing the United States is the contamination of meat with residual veterinary drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals. “Residue” of this sort finds its way into the food supply when producers bring animals to slaughter plants while they have these residual contaminants in their system.  When the animals are slaughtered, traces of the drugs or pesticides contained in these animals’ meat is shipped to meat processors and retail supermarkets, and eventually purchased by consumers.

In order to safeguard the Nation’s food supply from harmful residue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) administers the national residue program. FSIS inspectors sample meat processed through slaughter plants for residue testing and compare the results with tolerances established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent adulterated meat from entering into commerce.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiated this audit to evaluate the effectiveness of the national residue program and to assess how well FSIS, FDA, and EPA were coordinating to accomplish the program’s objectives.
Based on our review, we found that the national residue program is not accomplishing its mission of monitoring the food supply for harmful residues. Together, FSIS, FDA, and EPA have not established thresholds for many dangerous substances (e.g., copper or dioxin3), which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce. Additionally, FSIS does not attempt to recall meat, even when its tests have confirmed the excessive presence of veterinary drugs.

Plants handling dairy cows and bob veal were, in 2008, responsible for over 90 percent of residue violations found.  FSIS allowed such plants to continue treating residue problems as ‘not reasonably likely to occur’—the determination that would allow plants to justify not implementing additional procedures to control residues . . . As a result, in 2008, individual plants amassed as many as 211 violations—with 21 producers having multiple violations—and still were able to treat residue as a problem ‘not reasonably likely to occur.’”

See table that “summarizes the number of residue violations at 7 selected cattle slaughter establishments during the 2008 calendar year.  The violation data was taken from the Residue Violation Information System (RVIS).  This information includes OIG’s assigned plant identification number (1 – 7), the number of residue violations at each plant, the number of repeat offenders that delivered cattle to the plant, the number of residue violations that occurred at the plant from repeat offenders, and the overall percentage of residue violations at the plant that came from repeat offenders.”                                            [see pages 8 & 28 & 29 of OIG Audit Report]

Residues are introduced into meat intended for human consumption for a variety of reasons. Some producers provide antibiotics to dairy cows in order to eliminate an infection after a calf is born. If the producer perceives that the cow is not improving, he may sell the animal to a slaughter facility so that he can recoup some of his investment in the animal before it dies.
If the producer does not wait long enough for the antibiotic to clear the animal’s system, some of this residue will be retained in the meat that is sold to consumers.

Meat from bob veal calves also frequently contains residue which may enter their system through medicated feed or from waste milk from cows that are going through a drug withdrawal period. Farmers are prohibited from selling milk for human consumption from cows that have been medicated with antibiotics (as well as other drugs) until the withdrawal period is over; so instead of just disposing of this tainted milk, producers feed it to their calves. When the calves are slaughtered, the drug residue from the feed or milk remains in their meat, which is then sold to consumers.     [see page 13 of OIG Audit Report]

“to confirm the presence of penicillin, FSIS is, at present, forced to use an antiquated test.  It has requested that FDA help it bridge to a new and more efficient test, but in order to do so, FDA has spent months trying to obtain the old machines and then training staff on how to perform the tests on the old equipment.  To date, FDA has not completed bridging to this new test method..”                  [see page 19 of OIG Audit Report]

by:  Francisco J. Barragan


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