The United States has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for Vermont against Lawson Farm, Robert Lawson, George R. Lawson, and Lonnie A. Griffin to block them from violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) in connection with their alleged unlawful use of new animal drugs in cows slaughtered for food. The Justice Department filed the suit on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Defendants Lawson Farm, Robert Lawson, and George R. Lawson have agreed to settle the litigation and be bound by a Consent Decree of Permanent Injunction that enjoins them from committing violations of the FDCA. The proposed consent decree has been filed with the court and is awaiting judicial approval. The lawsuit continues against defendant Lonnie Griffin.
“When farms fail to maintain appropriate controls concerning the medication of food-producing animals, they jeopardize the public health,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We are committed to making sure food producers have put in place the procedures and documentation necessary to help ensure that consumers receive safe foods for their family table.”
The government’s action results from a series of inspections of the Irasburg, Vermont farm, which revealed, according to the FDA, that the defendants failed to maintain complete treatment records for their animals and that they sold animals for slaughter containing excessive and illegal drug residues in its edible tissues. The complaint also alleges that the defendants have dispensed prescription new animal drugs on more than one occasion without a lawful order from a veterinarian.
The complaint states that excess drug residues in animal tissues can harm consumers by causing allergic reactions and by contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Both FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have warned the defendants that their conduct violates the FDCA. Nonetheless, according to the complaint, the most recent FDA inspection, concluded in August 2012, documented the continuing nature of the defendants’ violations, and established their responsibility for illegal drug residues found in edible tissues sampled by USDA.
The government’s complaint asserts that the defendants have introduced adulterated food into interstate commerce, caused new animal drugs to become misbranded and adulterated while held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce, and failed to comply with statutory and regulatory requirements concerning the extra-label use of new animal drugs.
The FDA referred the case to the Department of Justice. The matter was filed by the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont, and FDA’s Office of the General Counsel.
A complaint is merely a set of allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government would need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence.