Health Issue Articles

Missouri Health Ordinances

The Facts about CAFOs, Local Control,
and Health Ordinances

by the Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Columbia, Missouri

FDA Warns Dairy

Johnson Dairy warned by FDA
By Steve Porter

April 11, 2008 --
EATON - Johnson Dairy, one of the largest dairies in the United States with an 11,000-milk-cow operation about five miles east of Eaton, has been warned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take more care when sending animals to slaughter, after several Johnson cows were found to have levels of medications in their tissues exceeding U.S. Department of Agriculture tolerances.

A warning letter sent to Johnson Dairy on Feb. 29 details four instances in 2007 of the dairy sending to slaughter culled cows that were found to have residues of a pain killer and an antibiotic in concentrations higher than allowed for human consumption.

The letter, signed by FDA Denver District Director H. Thomas Warwick, noted that three Holstein milk cows culled from Johnson Dairy in May, August and September were found to violate the FDA tolerance limits of Flunixin, an animal painkiller and anti-inflammatory. Another cow tested in July violated the limit for Sulfadimethoxine, an antibiotic.

"Our investigation also found that you hold animals under conditions that are so inadequate that medicated animals bearing potentially harmful drug residues are likely to enter the food supply," the letter said. "You lack an adequate system to ensure that animals medicated by you have been withheld from slaughter for appropriate periods of time to permit depletion of potentially hazardous residues of drugs from edible tissues."

John D. Johnson, dairy owner, said he believes the incidents - particular those involving Flunixin - may have been kept to one case had he received more timely information about the problem.

"We didn't realize Flunixin was the problem," he said. "Once we found out it was Flunixin, it was like throwing a light switch on."

Johnson, who started the dairy only five years ago, said he has instituted a number of animal-handling protocols to help avoid the possibility of additional violations. For example, Johnson said animal care staff at the dairy now wait 10 days before sending a culled cow to slaughter instead of the four days generally recommended for dissipation of Flunixin.

"When this all happened, we went out and reviewed this with everybody," said Scott Smith, who provides contract veterinary services at Johnson Dairy. "If there's any question at all, you're waiting 10 days because obviously we don't want this to happen again."

Smith noted that Flunixin - if injected intramuscularly instead of intravenously - can remain in an animal's tissue a few days longer.

Records inadequate

An FDA inspection team visited Johnson Dairy in late November and early December to look into the dairy's cow-culling practices and determine how long animals were being quarantined for substance dissipation before being sent to slaughter.

The investigation revealed that the dairy had not been keeping adequate records showing if drug withdrawal times were being observed. The investigation also found that the dairy had kept insufficient records about animal medications, and that identification ear tags were not being kept on the animals after sending them to slaughter, making it difficult to track the cows and their medical history.

Johnson said new protocols for the dairy now include keeping an ear tag on the culled animal all the way to slaughter and for backup records to be kept on paper in addition to computerized records.

Random testing

Ronald C. Nelson, DVM, director of the USDA's Denver office of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, said USDA inspectors at slaughter facilities pick animals on a random basis for tissue inspection, usually based on the animal's condition.

Nelson said initial violations of FDA tissue limits result in closer scrutiny being placed on animals coming from a producer who has been found to be in violation. "We would concentrate on animals coming from that producer," he said.

Continued violations could include fines and legal proceedings, Nelson said.

Frank Garry, a veterinarian at Colorado State University, said he knew of nothing in veterinary literature that showed Flunixin to be dangerous to human health unless someone had a severe allergic reaction to it.

"I've heard of no problems with the ingestion of that drug," he said. "It is no more harmful than Ibuprofen. But that does not excuse it from being there because we don't want those things there."

Sulfadimethoxine, the antibiotic found in one of the culled cows, was recorded at a level of 0.12 parts per million, just slightly over the tolerance limit of 0.10 ppm. Garry said higher levels of sulfadimethoxine would be more of a health concern.

Johnson said he's sorry to have been on the receiving end of bad publicity about his dairy, which he said is generally a model for the industry. But he admits his operation - which employs about 140 people - needed to be tightened regarding culling medicated cows.

"I'm not trying to step away from my responsibility," he said. "Our ultimate goal is to never have another one of these (letters). I think we now have the protocols in place to check and double-check every cow."


Dairy Factories and your Health

Guest commentary:
Dairy factories and your health
By Thomas. R. Anderson M.D.

As a health-care provider in Carroll County, I am concerned that many citizens are unaware of the magnitude of the decision to build multiple dairy factories in Carroll County. These dairies, commonly called "CAFOs" (concentrated animal feeding operations), have extensive health, environmental, and economic repercussions that I have not seen addressed in our community. There is sufficient documentation to have grave reservations about the affect these dairies will have on our entire community. First of all, we have been warned by geologist/hydrogeologist, Prof. Emeritus of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Darrell Leap, Ph.D. from Purdue University, that plans to establish such operations in our county "are fraught with potential environmental problems that are serious enough to warrant denial of a permit by IDEM and cancellation of planned operations of this activity in this locality." Dr. Leap concludes his extensive 12-page report about a Carroll County CAFO by saying, "The Vreba-Hoff Optima Dairy planned for Liberty Township of Carroll County, Indiana, should not be permitted because potential environmental problems are too numerous, too great and too dangerous to humans and animals that will come in contact with the large amounts of manure that will be stored and spread on fields." (A copy of this report is available to the public at the Camden Medical Office, 132 W. Main St, Camden.) One of the reasons the danger is so great is due to manure seepage into ditches, streams and ground water. Cattle frequently carry E. Coli 0157:H7 which is shed in manure; this is the strain of E. coli that causes severe, bloody diarrhea and 8% acute kidney failure in patients requiring medical treatment of which 3-5% of these patients die from this illness. The young and the elderly are at greatest risk. As a physician, I must inform you that medical science has no cure for this type of bacterial infection; if contracted, it must be allowed to run its course. Even one dairy factory in the county means this bacteria could be released in a manure spill and could be contracted by playing or wading in a downstream creek, by eating or handling fish from the creek, by eating deer or any livestock drinking from the creek or groundwater. Another health hazard is the poisonous gas emissions near confinement areas, sewage pits, or sewage disposal fields, said Bryce Oates in an article for inmotionmagazine. Oates cites that according to a 2002 Air Quality Study from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, "large manure lagoons pollute the air with many gases that can be harmful to human health, including hydrogen sulfide. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide can cause nausea, headaches, vomiting or diarrhea, and even life-threatening pulmonary edema." Dr. K. Kilburn of Utah is a leading authority on hydrogen sulfide. He states that "even one exposure to the toxin is enough to cause irreversible brain damage." He also says, "the operational size of today's mega-farms is the reason they threaten public health." I think it is also in the public's best interest to know that on Jan. 9, 2004, the American Public Health Association released the following: The American Public Health Association has issued a resolution urging federal, state, and local government health agencies to impose a precautionary moratorium on all new Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) - also known as factory farms - and to initiate and support further research on the health impacts of air and water pollution from such operations. Negative economic effects on rural communities; health problems associated with air pollution and contaminated drinking water from manure runoff; increasing antibiotic resistance caused by routine use of antibiotics in farm animals; and serious respiratory problems found among CAFO workers and among neighboring residents are identified as the main reasons for calling for the moratorium. Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, have been inundated with CAFOs since 1990, when Europe encouraged dairy farmers to come to the American Midwest. Large corporations like Vreba-Hoff own the dairy and hire someone else to run it for them. "Vreba-Hoff Development Co., . . has been repeatedly cited and fined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ind. Dept. of Environmental Management (IDEM), the Mich. Dept. for Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and the Ohio Div. of Wildlife for manure seepage, discharge of contaminated water into local storm drains, ditches and lakes and violation of the Clean Water Act." Although CAFOs are touted as an economic boon, Oates writes that research proves otherwise. "An Iowa State study has found that family farms provide greater positive fiscal benefits on communities than factory farms do. Family farmers create 23% more total local revenue, produce 20% more net revenue for the state and pay 7% more property taxes than does one large unit of equal production. A University of Missouri study found that factory farms create a net loss of employment because they drive family farmers and the local merchants that depend upon them out of business." Research also indicates that "CAFOs are causing devastating loss of rural residential property values in Michigan. The loss of taxable value by as much as 70% has been documented due to CAFOs. In reality, many rural residents living in the vicinity of CAFOs and their disposal fields are unable to sell their land at any price." As a physician, I recognize the danger this kind of economic and financial stress poses to the mental and emotional well-being of my patients, as well as to their physical health. I would ask the citizens and local government of Carroll County to seriously consider the implications of allowing dairy factories to be established in this county. Other states and counties have committed to dairy factories and leave a wealth of experience for us to learn from. Unfortunately, the track record looks pretty devastating for public health and welfare. For anyone who would like further information, Paula Foster is a local contact person @574-652- 4401 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Dr. Thomas Anderson is a Rock Creek Township resident and a practicing physician with an office 6:21 PM EST, January 9, 2008  

Did pig brain cause disease?

Did pig brain tissue sicken Austin pork-plant workers?

Two cases in Indiana may be a significant break in a case that has baffled disease investigators for a month.


January 17, 2008

Ethanol Byproducts and E. Coli

Feeding Ethanol Byproducts to Cattle Increases Risk of E. Coli Being Passed on to Humans, Says Kansas State StudyUPI Science News -- December 4, 2007 -- A U.S. study has found feeding distiller's grains to cattle results in the increased prevalence of E. coli 0157 in their bodies, posing a risk to humans. Kansas State University Professor T.G. Nagaraja notes ethanol plants and livestock producers have created a symbiotic relationship. Cattle producers feed their livestock distiller's grains, a byproduct of the ethanol distilling process, giving ethanol producers an added source of income.

"Distiller's grain is a good animal feed. That's why ethanol plants are often built next to feedlots," said Nagaraja, a professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. But the growth in ethanol plants means more cattle are likely to be fed distiller's grain, thereby becoming a potential source of health risks to humans who acquire the bacteria by eating undercooked meat, raw diary products and produce contaminated with cattle manure, Nagaraja said.

Nagaraja, Professor Jim Drouillard and doctoral student Megan Jacob determined the prevalence of E. coli 0157 was about twice as high in cattle fed distiller's grain compared with cattle on diets lacking the ethanol byproduct.

"This is a very interesting observation and is likely to have profound implications in food safety," Nagaraja said.

© 2007 United Press International