Saturday, May 31, 2003

Buckeye Egg cited by FDA for ignoring rules

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Buckeye Egg Farm, one of the nation's largest egg producers, has been cited by federal inspectors for ignoring livestock-feeding rules designed to protect consumers from drug-contaminated eggs and mad-cow disease.

The mega-farm has been ordered to change the way it feeds chickens and administers production-enhancing drugs or face unspecified penalties, the Columbus Dispatch reported in its Friday editions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cited the mega-farm in a March 4 letter for failing to carefully measure and monitor the medications it adds to chicken feed.

Violations such as those cited by the FDA raise the risk of exposing egg consumers to antibiotics unfit for human consumption, developing medication-resistant strains of salmonella and spreading mad-cow disease, according to environmental, agricultural and food-safety officials.

"We're in the era of drug-resistant infections and mad cow, and this is pretty startling," Susan Studer King, spokeswoman for the Ohio Environmental Council, said .

"On the other hand, it's not surprising given that this is Buckeye Egg. The state has failed to shut them down."

Buckeye Egg officials were to respond in writing to the citation within 15 days; it's unclear whether they have.

Officials with Buckeye Egg didn't respond to a request for comment.

Owner Anton Pohlmann is trying to sell the company under threat of otherwise being shut down by the state for a history of environmental problems, including swarms of insects, clouds of manure dust and water contamination.

Short of buying organic eggs, King said, there's no easy way for consumers to be certain they aren't buying Buckeye Egg Farm eggs, because they're marketed under more than 100 brand names.

The Buckeye Egg operation includes 14 million chickens and facilities in Licking, Hardin and Wyandot counties. The company also was cited for not labeling its feed, which can contain cattle parts.

Farmers are prohibited from giving cows feed that contains cattle meat to prevent the spread of mad-cow disease.

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