May 15, 2004


 Veterinary certificate attests to veal calf precautions

Posted May 1, 2004

This spring, veterinarians who serve the veal calf industry may be asked by their clients to provide a certificate for each nonruminating calf that was implanted with a growth-promoting hormone and is being presented for slaughter.

Until June 6, 2004, the Food and Drug Administration is allowing calves that were implanted with such hormones to be presented for slaughter, if special precautions were taken. A 63-day withdrawal period must have elapsed since implantation. The calf must have been implanted with the labeled dose for beef, in accordance with the directions on the implant, and in the proper location—under the skin of the ear.

The final condition set forth by the FDA's April 2 guidance is that each implanted, nonruminating calf presented for slaughter must be accompanied by a signed certificate from a licensed veterinarian. For personal credibility, veterinarians who provide such certificates should be confident that the conditions in the certificate were met.

A related notice issued April 5 by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service requires that veterinary certificates include the following information:

  • the trade name of the hormone implant used
  • the date each calf was implanted (to show that it meets the 63-day withdrawal time period)
  • a legible address, name, license number, and signature of the certifying veterinarian
  • identifying information, such as ear tag numbers or other individual identification, on each calf in the lot
  • information verifying that the calf has been implanted in accordance with the labeled dose for beef, in accordance with the directions on the implant, that there has been a 63-day withdrawal period, and that implant was placed in the proper location (i.e., under the skin of the ear); different manufacturers use various pellet sizes and numbers; therefore, the certification should indicate if it is a single pellet or a string of multiple pellets

Nonruminating calves that have implants and are accompanied by a veterinary certificate will be subject to testing at postmortem inspection to verify that residues are not present and that certified implants were used. Calves presented for slaughter with implants but no veterinary certificates will be condemned on antemortem inspection.

The FDA issued the guidance to the veal industry after the FSIS discovered suspected hormone implants in veal calves from three lots that arrived at two Wisconsin slaughter plants.

Following the discovery, the FDA and FSIS began an investigation into the extent to which growth-promoting hormones are being implanted illegally in nonruminating veal calves.

No growth-promoting hormone implants are FDA-approved for veal calves, and the extralabel use of such nontherapeutic new animal drugs is illegal. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, food from veal calves that contain unapproved drugs is considered adulterated.

Acting FDA commissioner, Dr. Lester M. Crawford said in an April 2 statement that the department intends to take enforcement actions to ensure against this practice.

View the FDA guidance at Comments on the guidance should be identified with Docket No. 2004D-0160 and submitted at Questions may be sent to Gloria J. Dunnavan,, or call (301) 827-1168. The FSIS notice is posted at