BURLINGTON, Vt. (CN) - A Vermont dairy farm has settled charges that it has a "long history" of selling livestock for slaughter with unsafe levels of drug residue in their tissue.
At 16 pages, the U.S. government's complaint paints Correia Family Farms as a repeat offender when it comes to treating its cows with off-label antibiotics that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved.
The FDA inspected the farm, which does business as Wynsum Holsteins, in 2014 after testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture detected penicillin residue in the kidney tissue of two dairy cows sold for consumption.
That investigation uncovered that farm owners Anthony and Barbara Correia, along with their son and limited partner Stephen Correia, used drugs to treat their cows for uterine infections, foot ulcers and milking soreness, without veterinary approval and contrary to the labeled uses of the medications.
Residue from these drugs can cause antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria to emerge, as well as "allergic reactions" for meat-eaters with sensitivity to antibiotics, according to the complaint.
Amy Menard, an attorney for the Correais, said the family takes "the health of their animals very seriously because farming is their livelihood."
Noting that the family has been working "closely with veterinarians to ensure the health of their herd," Menard said their settlement of the government's case "reflects the Correias' ongoing commitment to animal welfare and to safe farming practices."
The U.S. Department of Justice filed its complaint simultaneously Monday with a consent decree, saying Correia Family Farms dba Wynsum Holsteins, agreed to stop violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
Prior to the 2014 inspections, the West Addison dairy farm received "numerous warnings from two federal agencies and a penalty assessment by the state of Vermont," according to the complaint.
Benjamin Mizer, the Justice Department's principal deputy assistant attorney general, said farms "jeopardize public health" when they fail to properly treat food-producing animals.
"The Department of Justice will continue to work with the FDA to try to make sure that consumers are getting safe food," Mizer said in a statement.
Under the terms of the settlement, the Correias must cease all operations until they implement new record-keeping and operational protocols.
Facing heightened FDA oversight, the farm cannot resume food production until the FDA determines compliance with the law.
Megan Englehart with the Justice Department and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Weathers-Lowin handled the government's case, with assistance from Yen Hoang of the FDA's Office of the Chief Counsel.
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