Kentucky cattle wholesaler allegedly lied to food-safety regulators

A London cattle wholesaler that sold animals with illegal levels of drug residues in their bodies provided false information to food-safety regulators, a federal grand jury charged Monday.

The grand jury indicted Williams Cattle Co. and treasurer Pamela W. Collette on one count each of keeping false records to impede a federal investigation, and one count each of giving false documentation to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The company buys cattle at auctions and transports them to slaughterhouses in other states, the FDA said in a court document. Efforts to reach the company and its officers for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

In 2006, the FDA alleged in a lawsuit that the company sold numerous cattle from 1995 to 2005 that had unsafe levels of residue from various antibiotics in their tissues. The lawsuit said such residues can cause allergic reactions in people and contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in humans.

The agency sought a permanent injunction barring Williams Cattle and several officers, including Collette, from selling animals in interstate commerce that had illegal levels of drug residue.

The company agreed to get better information from sellers about the medication cows had received, to notify customers that cows Williams sold were drug-free, and to improve how it identified and monitored cows it bought.

The indictment issued Monday charged that in 2009, Williams Cattle and Collette put false information in reports to customers. The company and Collette also gave false reports to FDA inspectors about cattle producers' plans to avoid selling medicated cows to Williams Cattle, the indictment said.

The company knew the producers hadn't prepared the reports, the indictment said.

If convicted, the company and Collette face up to five years' probation and a $250,000 fine.