Alleging that tissue samples from Virtue Calves veal sold for slaughter since 1995 have contained illegal drug residues, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has sued the producer and its owners in a California federal court seeking an order to stop the defendants from selling food containing an unsafe new animal drug, deemed adulterated under federal law. United States v. Virtue, No. 11-902 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Cal., Sacramento Div., filed June 22, 2011).

According to the complaint, FSIS identified in defendants’ veal calves desfuroylceftiofur, gentamicin, neomycin, penicillin, tetracycline, sulfadiazine, and sulfamethoxazole. While the latter two drugs have never been approved for use on any animals, the remaining drugs have no legal tolerances approved for use in calves, according to FSIS. The agency contends, “Defendants have a long history of illegal drug residues in the edible tissues of the veal calves they sell for use as human food.” The defendants were purportedly warned repeatedly in writing about their failure to comply with the law and about poor record-keeping practices. Despite these warnings, “defendants persist in introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.” The complaint also alleges that defendant John Virtue stated that he was unwilling to correct the illegal practices thus creating “a cognizable danger of recurrent violation and an intolerable risk to the public health.”

The government seeks permanent injunctive relief and the costs of investigation and suit. Specifically, FSIS seeks to enjoin the defendants “from directly or indirectly violating 21 U.S.C. § 331(a) by introducing or delivering for introduction into interstate commerce, any article of food consisting of animals and their edible tissues that is adulterated within the meaning of 21 U.S.C. §§ 342(a)(2)(C)(ii) or 342(a)(4).” FSIS also seeks an order that the defendants “cease introducing or delivering for introduction into interstate commerce any article of food within the meaning of 21 U.S.C. § 321(f ), consisting of animals and their edible tissues, unless and until defendants bring their operations into compliance with the law to the satisfaction of FDA.”