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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Neomycin Residue Violations Found in “Bob Veal”

FDA Veterinarian Newsletter July/August 2004 Volume XIX, No IV

The Center for Veterinary Medicine has issued a notice reminding dairy producers and others that they should not feed milk replacer products that contain neomycin to calves that could go to slaughter as veal. Federal meat inspectors at slaughter plants have reported finding a significant number of violative neomycin residues in the class of veal calves known as “bob veal.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines bob veal calves as calves that are a few days to three weeks of age, weigh up to 150 lb. and do not have developed rumens, because they have been fed milk or milk-based diets only. The majority are bull calves coming directly from dairy farms. Bob veal calves make up make up about a third of the total of veal calves slaughtered, according to USDA.

Neomycin in milk replacers has been approved for treatment and control of colibacillosis (bacterial enteritis) caused by Escherichia coli susceptible to neomycin.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which has inspectors at slaughter plants, reports illegal drug residues to FDA for follow up by field investigators. FDA conducts investigations to determine the source of the illegal residue, helps correct the problem and, when necessary, recommends possible enforcement action.

Roughly 44 percent of the 1,800 residue violations in all classes of cattle reported by FSIS in 2003 were instances of neomycin residues in bob veal. Ninety percent of these neomycin violations were in bob veal calves from Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Ohio and Virginia.

The likely cause of the neomycin residues is the use of medicated milk replacer containing neomycin. The dairy producer should read the label to determine if the product should be fed to calves that might be used for veal. Milk replacer with neomycin will have a label that states, “Warning: A withdrawal period has not been established for use in pre-ruminating calves. Do not use in calves to be proc­essed for veal.”

Dairy producers can instead use non-medicated milk replacers that have the same nutritional value as the medicated milk replacers, but do not contain neomycin. FDA recommends the use of non-medicated calf milk replacers for all calves that will be sold off the farm at an early age, including bob veal calves being held for sale by veal producers.