A California dairy operation agreed to pay the United States $140,000 in a settlement of the government's motion to have them found in contempt of a federal court-mandated permanent injunction relating to that firm's continued sales of meat and milk containing excessive amounts antibiotic residues.

The Food and Drug Administration reported that the firms are Joe Sozinho Dairy #1 and #2 in Hanford, Calif., which are owned and operated by Joe Sozinho, Sr., Danny Sozinho and Dimas Sozinho.

Facts behind the fine

According to the FDA, meat from Sozinho cattle tested positive for antibiotic residues in 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2000. The United States Department of Justice, along with the Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California, filed for an injunction against the dairies in February last year.

The United States District Court in Fresno issued a permanent injunction on July 30, 2001 prohibiting the Sozinhos from selling cattle until the dairies complied with the animal drug regulations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. These regulations are designed to prevent excessive levels of antibiotic and animal drug residues in meat and milk sold for human consumption.

Despite this court injunction, the Sozinho's failed to take adequate corrective action and continued selling cattle, the FDA claimed. The FDA further reported that according to a stipulation filed in court, the Sozinhos admitted that they delivered at least 56 head of cattle for slaughter during the first 36 days after the injunction. They also admitted that they continued to make medication errors. These errors included using inaccurate meat and milk withdrawal periods and administering more than the recommended amount of medications to their animals.

They also admitted that their medication records were inaccurate, according to the FDA.