Feds probe possible widespread use: Vealers caught using illegal synthetic steroids on calves

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1994:

SAN FRANCISCO, California––Search-and-seizure affidavits filed by federal inspectors after a series of raids on
veal industry feed formula suppliers hint at widespread use of illegal drugs, including several which have been identified as
carcinogens in laboratory animals and one, clenbuterol, which is considered “acutely poisonous” to human beings, according
to Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges executive director Lester Crawford, who was formerly head of meat
inspection for the USDA.

“This stuff should not be on the U.S. market,”
Crawford told Los Angeles Times staff writer Daniel P. Puzo,
who broke the story on October 14, using documentation sup-
plied by Humane Farming Association investigator Gail
Eisnitz.
Elaborated The Milwaukee Journal two days later,
“More than 1,200 calves from at least three farms in Wisconsin
have been taken to slaughterhouses and killed after authorities
discovered they had an illegal and highly toxic growth drug in
their systems.”
But neither The Los Angeles Times nor T h e
Milwaukee Journaltold the whole story as revealed by piles of
affidavits, warrants, photographs, and other data gathered by
Eisnitz in months of crisscrossing the Midwest and Northeast.
The federal raids began in February 1994, less than a
month after veal and calf’s liver contaminated with clenbuteral
caused more than 140 Spaniards to suffer dizziness, heart pal-
pitations, breathing difficulty, shakes, and headaches. None
were hospitalized, but the incident raised memories of 1990,
when 135 Spaniards were hospitalized between March and
June due to similar clenbuterol poisoning. Clenbuterol poison-
ing via calf’s liver has reportedly also occurred in France.
Describing the 1990 poisonings, the Food and Drug
Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine warned in the
May 1991 edition of FDA Veterinarian that, “These symp-
toms are of particular concern because the toxicity can appear
suddenly following the consumption of clenbuterol residue.
While no deaths have been reported, FDA is concerned about
serious reactions in sensitive individuals, pregnant women,
and people with heart disease.”
According to an October 14 expose by Los Angeles
Times staff writer Daniel P. Puzo, clients of the dozen feed
formula suppliers that were raided include “major portions of
the industry.” There are about 1,200 formula-fed veal finish-
ing operations in the U.S., accounting for 63% of the
1,159,000 veal calves slaughtered during 1993. If each sup-
plier had 100 clients, potentially the entire formula-fed veal
industry could be involved.
“Keep in mind,” Eisnitz said, “that while well over
twice as many formula-fed calves are slaughtered as bob
calves,” the next-biggest category, “consumers purchase
much more than twice as much formula-fed veal, due to the
fact that each formula-fed veal calf weighs more than three
times as much as each bob calf.” Thus consumers actually eat
abou six times as much fornula-fed veal.
An HFA background report describes clenbuterol as
“a synthetic steroid-like drug, used illegally to stimulate
growth in veal calves.” As a feed additive, HFA asserts,
“clenbuterol can increase daily weight gains by up to 30%. It
also lowers iron concentration in the muscle, enhancing ane-
mia in the calves and producing the white meat desired by the
‘milk-fed’ veal industry.”
Adds the description included in various federal
search warrant applications, “Clenbuterol can be adminis-
tered in a number of different ways: it can be put in milk
replacement powder for calves, it can be sprayed over cattle
feed, and it can be injected into the livestock.”
Wrote Puzo, “Suspected use of clenbuterol has
come at the same time that the average weight of veal calves
slaughtered in this country has risen from 350 pounds in 1984
to about 430 pounds, or an increase of about 23%, according
to data from the American Veal Association.”
Silence is golden?
Former American Veal Association executive direc-
tor Ken Cheatham, who retired on May 1, warned members
in an April 26 memo that public awareness of the growing
clenbuterol probe “can have a devastating, or potentially
ruinous impact to the industry,” already in a downward spiral
since 1945. That year, 1,664 million pounds of veal were
sold. Currently, under 300 million pounds per year are
sold––including about 200 million pounds from formula-fed
calves.
“Despite the hazards posed to consumers by clen-
buterol,” charges the HFA, “both government and veal
industry personnel have tried to keep the entire affair secret.”
An “Affidavit in support of motion to seal search
warrant affidavit” filed by U.S. Customs Service special agent
Steven Sutherland on March 11, 1994 in the U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin avers that,
“Premature public disclosure of this investigation may cause
harm to the subjects of the investigation and to the public
interest.”
Said Eisnitz, “The government is obviously more
concerned with protecting the industry from negative publici-
ty than it is with protecting the American public.”
A court order issued on March 29 in the Federal
Court District of Minnesota kept at least one search warrant
and affidavit sealed until May 9, ostensibly to prevent publi-
city which might, “jeopardize the multistate investigation.”
However, the sealing order also helped keep the
investigation from interfering with veal sales around Easter,
the annual peak of veal consumption, when about 12% more
is eaten than around the winter holidays, the next highest
consumption period. Easter fell on April 3 this year.
The order also gave Cheatham the chance to distrib-
ute his April 26 hush-up memo to “veal industry packing rep-
resentatives, veal industry feed representatives, [ a n d ] s t a t e
veal association presidents,” before the investigation became
public knowledge.
“We have stated before that rumors do our industry
no good,” Cheatham wrote. “Those under investigation and
others contacted by federal agencies are not necessarily guilty
of any wrong doing. Only a proper investigation and eventual
official judgement can make that determination…The AVA
has discussed the tactics used when a plant or farm comes
under investigation with officials, and has requested that a
more low-key approach be used if and when other contacts
are made. We have advised these agencies that they are
oftentimes dealing with families, animal agriculture, and not
with violent criminal elements.”
Continued Cheatham, with apparent confidence the
matter could be buried, “It is our understanding that animals
previously quarantined [apparently because they might have
ingested clenbuterol] are being shipped to market and, as far
as well can tell, this meat is going into commerce. Also, we
have not had any major media coverage reported back to our
offices…Please note the enclosed statements,” he asked, “for
use if you should be contacted. Please use only these state-
ments so that the veal industry can speak in one united and
consistent voice. Remember, do not offer more information
than what is asked.”
Cheatham also advised vealers to “operate within
the existing laws and regulations concerning animal health
care compound use and animal welfare guidelines.”
Athletes banned
A search warrant application filed on February 7 by
U.S. Customs Service special agent Steven Sutherland indi-
cates that the federal probe actually began, “On or around
August 16, 1989,” when “Stephen A. Beal, the owner of
Rockin B. Feedyard, of Harper, Kansas, reported to
Investigator David J. Bergeson of the FDA the possible use of
clenbuterol, in the lamb feed supplied by Vitek for his
Provimi lamb feed operation in Harper, Kansas. Beal
informed Bergeson that when he began to feed the lambs the
Vitek feed, he experienced an unusually high unexplainable
death rate among his lambs. Beal had contacted representa-
tives at Provimi and Vitek. After numerous contacts between
Beal and John Doppenberg, Vitek’s general manager,
Doppenberg informed Beal after a few alcoholic drinks that
clenbuterol was used in the animal feed. Doppenburg later
told Beal that the clenbuterol is smuggled into the U.S.
packed in shipments of other feed ingredients such as milk
replacer additives received from a related firm named
Pricor…Beal added that he was told that clenbuterol was also
added to veal supplements made for another firm entitled
Strauss Veal Feeds, located in Watertown, Wisconsin.”
However, the warrant applications and affidavits
gathered by Eisnitz indicate the U.S. government did little or
nothing with the tip for five years. Clenbuterol did make
news in 1992 and 1993, but strictly on the sports pages:
German world double sprint champion Katrin Krabbe, her
clubmate Grit Beur, British weightlifters Andrew Saxton and
Andrew Davies, and U.S. field athletes Jud Logan and
Bonnie Dasse were all barred from international competitions
including the Barcelona Olympics for allegedly using clen-
buterol to build muscle mass.
The expulsions upset a widespread belief that clen-
buterol residues could not be detected in urine more than 24
hours after use. Presumably, athletes who quit use several
days before competition wouldn’t get caught. Similarly,
European veal producers caught illegally using clenbuterol
commonly believed that if they quit using clenbuterol-treated
feed two weeks before slaughter, they wouldn’t get
caught––and consumers would be safe, as well.
The misunderstanding may have begun with appar-
ent widespread undetected use of clenbuterol on racehorses.
Testimony presented at the 1983 trial of alleged racetrack
drug dealer Howard Kinsbrunner, of Davie, Florida, indicat-
ed that clenbuterol was one of the three most popular illegal
drugs in his inventory, sold to as many as 270 horse trainers
and veterinarians in at least 11 states. Tests to detect clen-
buterol even after discontinuation of usage were not devel-
oped for many years––and right up until Krabbe was caught,
Olympic officials didn’t know if the tests would really work.
Clenbuterol remains a problem in horseracing. On
February 26, 1993, the California Horse Racing Board fired
executive secretary Dennis Hutcheson at a public meeting for
allegedly mishandling reports that at least six horses compet-
ed under the influence of clenbuterol at Santa Anita Park and
Hollywood Park late in 1992.
The case breaks
The big break in the federal investigation of clen-
buterol use in the veal industry came, according to the first
search warrant request affidavits, “On approximately October
19, 1993,” when “Robert Cozzolina, the director of the U.S.
Customs Service’s New York intelligence unit, received
information from [a] confidential informant, which alleges
that Vitek Supply Corporation may be attempting to import
clenbuterol-treated animal feeds from its parent company,
named Pricor, located in Holland. [The informant] f u r t h e r
stated that Pricor may place clenbuterol in the animal premix-
es, antibiotics, and other medicines. Clenbuterol may also be
found in Pricor’s vitamins or trace elements.”
The use of clenbuterol in animals raised for human
consumption is illegal in the Netherlands as well as the U.S.
According to the affidavits, Dutch veterinary and animal
feeds inspector Anne T. Hoekstra “verified that there are
numerous investigations being conducted within the
Netherlands in relation to the illegal use of clenbuterol.”
Finally, “On or about January 7,” U.S. Customs
began surveillance of shipments to Vitek from Pricor. On
February 11, the customs broker M.E. Dey told U.S. Customs
in Milwaukee that a shipment received a week earlier “was
administratively incorrect in that the documentation did not
reflect three boxes of personal gifts, three plastic containers
of iron dextran (10 liters each), one box of machine parts,
and 300 plastic 4-gallon cans added to the shipment by Pricor
without M.E. Dey’s and Vitek’s knowledge.”
A U.S. Customs search of the shipment on February
14 found two packages of furaltadone hydrochloride, another
illegal drug, classified as a carcinogen and banned from use
in animals intended for human consumption since 1985.
These and other items believed to have been imported illegal-
ly were marked for future identification. Test samples taken
at that time later confirmed the presence of clenbuterol in
“custom blended animal feed premix.” The shipment was
meanwhile released to the Vitek facility at Oak Grove,
Wisconsin, on February 17.
A day later, on February 18, U.S. Customs raided
Vitek, confiscating the suspect products. According to later
warrant affidavits, Doppenberg then “confirmed that persons
associated with and/or employed by Vitek and Pricor were
involved in smuggling misbranded and unapproved animal
drugs into the United States, and in the use and distribution
of tainted animal premix and illegal animal drugs.”
Doppenberg also allegedly told a U.S. Customs
agent “that he mixes clenbuterol into the feed specially blend-
ed by Vitek for V.I.V. Incorporated, a.k.a. Hying America,”
of Springville, Pennsylvania. According to the warrant
request information, “Doppenberg stated that he does not
supply clenbuterol-tainted premixes to any other client.
Doppenberg stated that the clenbuterol is smuggled into the
United States, on a quarterly basis, on the person of Gerard
Hoogendijk, the president of Pricor (the parent company of
Vitek) and the vice-president of Vitek.”
Doppenberg further admitted, warrant affidavits
state, that product labels were switched to disguise the con-
tent of various other smuggled drugs. A drug called nitrofura-
zone, banned by the FDA in 1991, was apparently added to a
product called Apple First Start, which was custom manufac-
tured for American Feed and Livestock. Also obtained was
information pertaining to the smuggling and illegal use of yet
another unapproved livestock drug, Avotan.
A week later, on February 25, U.S. Customs raided
V.I.V. Inc. As expected, product samples seized there also
tested positive for clenbuterol, according to subsequent war-
rant affidavits. Within another week, federal agents searched
the American Feeds and Livestock facilities at Howard Lake,
Minnesota; Buffalo Grove, Illinois; and Beaver Dam,
Wisconsin. From there, the trail apparently led to Windwood
Veal Inc., Windwood Acres Inc., and Windwood Feeds Inc.,
of Towanda, Pennsylvania, all of which were raided circa
April 12. Meanwhile, Vitek was hit again on April 7.
As the raids continued at least into August, the
search warrant affidavits used stronger and more specific
language. Yet apparently no charges have yet been filed,
as the investigation goes on.
Normal practices?
“The AVA believes this regrettable situation, if
true, is an isolated incident and has no connection at all
with normal veal industry production practices,” asserts
one of Cheatham’s prepared media statements. But already
several of the biggest names in veal are implicated. Math
alone––the number of formula-fed veal producers divided
by the number of distributors raided, plus the coincidence
that all of the distributors are within the major veal-produc-
ing states––suggests “isolated” may be liberally defined.
Even if the illegal drugging does involve “isolat-
ed” incidents, it still tends to reinforce the longstanding
argument of humane advocates that formula-fed veal pro-
duction techniques are inherently unnatural, and virtually
require intensive use of drugs that would not be necessary if
the animals were allowed to live normally. Formula-fed
veal calves spend almost their entire lives tethered inside
narrow wooden stalls, or sometimes portable crates,
deprived of any opportunity to engage in vigorous play so
that their muscle development will be retarded and their
flesh will remain tender. The advantage affording by clen-
buterol is that it stimulates muscles to grow in size without
necessarily being exercised or growing stronger.
Because formula-fed veal calves are kept from
exercising and are kept anemic to insure their flesh remains
light-colored, they are notoriously susceptible to infection,
and are especially vulnerable to diarrhea. A pair of 1987
studies by Ted Friend, an associate professor of agriculture
at Texas A&M University, reported that veal calves raised
in confinement needed as much as five times more medica-
tion than field-reared calves to remain healthy. A 1988
USDA sampling of 1,359 kidneys from formula-fed calves
found antibiotic residue levels in excess of FDA limits for
human consumption in 3.2%––roughly one calf in 33, or as
many as half a dozen calves in the typical veal barn.
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