Record fines for veterinary medicine misuse

Tuesday 25 August 2009, 8:56AM


Sending bobby calves containing a prohibited drug to the works has earned a Waimate dairy farm company a record-breaking $6,000 fine in a case brought by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).

In September last year Cantley Developments Limited sent 35 bobby calves for processing. A randomly selected calf showed residues of sulphonamides, which are a class of drugs commonly used for the treatment of bacterial infections in cattle. This residue level does not pose a risk to human health, but its presence in meat is prohibited.

In Timaru District Court Judge Moran ordered Cantley Developments Limited to pay a fine of $6000 plus court costs. Employee Janet McKenzie, who had purchased the agricultural compound, was fined $500 plus court costs.

NZFSA’s assistant director Justin Rowlands says a fine of no more than $1000 has typically been imposed for this type of case. “This case sets an excellent new precedent.”

He warned that farmers need to be very aware of dosage rates and withholding periods for the particular veterinary compounds they use. “We have robust monitoring and surveillance programmes in place and we are actively looking for instances of non-compliance.”

The Animal Products Act 1999 prohibits suppliers of farmed mammals from sending animal material for processing if it has been treated with or exposed to a registered agricultural compound and is within the withholding period.

Judge Moran considered a starting point sentence of a $10,000 fine appropriate for the company and $2,000 for the individual, but because they pleaded guilty and the exposure was accidental rather than deliberate, he reduced both sentences.