MILWAUKEE--In the first of an expected series of indictments striking at the brain trust and bankroll of the crate-raised veal and milk-fed spring lamb industries, a federal grand jury empaneled in Milwaukee on December 6 charged the Vitek Supply Corporation, Vitek president Jannes Doppenberg, and Vitek office manager Sherry Steffen with 12 counts of conspiracy, smuggling unapproved drugs into the U.S., and illegally adding the drugs to feed mixtures sold to veal and lamb producers throughout the country.
A prepared statement from U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Schneider said, "It is alleged in the indictment that the unapproved drugs were shipped to feed companies and growers in Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Over 1.7 million pounds of Vitek product containing unapproved drugs, valued at over $1.3 million dollars, were sold by Vitek between 1988 and April 1994."
Three drugs were involved, explained Schneider. Clenbuterol, a banned but still popular synthetic steroid growth enhancer, has also been at the center of recent livestock show and horseracing scandals. "Clenbuterol has been associated with the acute poisoning of humans who consumed meat from clenbuterol-fed animals," Schneider said. In Spain, clenbuterol tainting of veal and calf's liver caused 135 people to be hospitalized in 1990, and another 140 people suffered dizziness, heart palpitations, breathing difficulty, shakes, and headaches from a similar incident in February 1994.
The second unapproved drug, Avoparcine, is "an antibiotic, which through uncontrolled use, may result in strains of bacteria resistant to other antibiotics," according to Schneider.
The third drug, actually a drug family, includes Furaltadone, furazolidona, and nitrofurazone, "all members of a class of compounds referred to as nitrofurans," Schneider said. "Though previously approved, since January of 1992, all three drugs have been unapproved due to substantial evidence that they are carcinogenic.
The indictments are a milestone for the San Francisco-based Humane Farming Association and HFA chief investigator Gail Eisnitz, who found out about the illegal use of clenbuterol in the veal industry in early 1994, and has been working to expose it ever since.
Clenbuterol is used to make confined calves and lambs gain muscle mass even though they get no exercise. Strong antibiotics are used to try to curb the chronic inflections and diarrhea that afflict calves and lambs who never go outside and may not even get colostrum from their mothers' milk.
The real significance of the December 6 indictments is that Vitek and Doppenberg are not only important figures within the veal business, they're part of the interlocking chain of companies that forms the central part of the vealing infrastructure.
Search warrants executed in connection with the case in September 1994 establish a direct business relationship between Doppenberg and Aat Groenvelt, the Dutch immigrant who founded the Provimi veal empire in 1962, introduced the use of the veal crate to North America, and created a market for "milk-fed spring lamb," starting slightly later in the 1960s. Groenveldt today is not only president of Provimi, but also vice president of Pricor Inc., the Dutch-based veterinary pharmaceuticals firm of which Vitek is a subsidiary. The September 1994 search warrants place Groenvelt, Doppenberg, Pricor president Gerard Hoogendijk, and other influential people in the veal industry together during high-level meetings at which the use of clenbuterol was allegedly discussed.
Various federal law enforcement agencies already had a considerable amount of evidence linking clenbuterol to veal and lamb feed when Eisnitz was tipped off that no one seemed to be bringing it together. Kansas lamb grower Stephen Beal was allegedly introduced to the illegal use of clenbuterol through Doppenberg in late 1988, while a partner of Hoogendijk and Groenvelt under the business name Provi-Lean. He reported the matter to the Food and Drug administration in August 1989, but there was apparently little serious investigation before February 1994, when U.S. Customs traced illegal veterinary drug imports to Vitek.
Transactions recorded in the indictment issued December 6 indicate the scale of the Vitek operations involving illegal drugs. Eight times between August 5, 1988, and February 16, 1989, or slightly more often than once a month, Vitek imported anywhere from 75 to 600 kilograms of substances containing clenbuterol. Outgoing product covered by the indictment includes 454 tons of feed containing clenbuterol, worth $434,784. The total volume of unapproved and/or misbranded animal drugs identified as having been sold by Vitek comes to 866 tons, worth $1.3 million.
"If convicted," said Schneider, "Vitek faces fines up to $500,000 on each of six counts, and fines up to $10,000 on each of five counts. Both Doppenberg and Steffen face up to five years incarceration, a $25,000 fine, or both, if convicted of the conspiracy alleged in count one of the indictment. The smuggling-related offenses charged in counts two through six each carry up to five years incarceration, a $250,000 fine, or both." Additional counts could add as much as three years incarceration and a fine of $10,000 per conviction. Collapse of Industry? "What we are witnessing," predicted HFA national director Bradley Miller, "is the collapse of the veal industry, an industry that as far as we are concerned, more closely resembles a criminal enterprise than it does an agricultural commodity group. The veal industry's disregard for animal suffering is only surpassed by its disregard for the health and safety of consumers." "While the recent indictments represent a significant development," Eisnitz predicted, "they are just the tip of the iceberg in regard to the veal industry's use of clenbuterol and other toxic drugs."
It was an all-American moment -- grinning 16-year-old Ryan Rash resting his head on his grand champion steer Badger after winning the blue ribbon at the National Western Stock Show.
The lumbering, black steer fetched $37,500 at auction, and Ryan and his parents couldn't be more proud. But within days, the ribbon had been stripped, the money forfeited and Ryan banned for life from the Denver show.
The reason? Cheating.
Badger had been fed an illegal, steroid-like drug called clenbuterol that beefed him up, giving him the straight lines and muscular physique of a champion. Ryan's parents, John and Cherie Carrabba of Crockett, Texas, admitted responsibility.
As state fairs prepare to open their gates, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials are re-arming themselves with kits to detect the drug. In Europe people who ate tainted meat from animals given the drug were hospitalized with increased heart rates and muscle weakness.
Scott McEldowney, who admitted feeding clenbuterol to his 10-year-old daughter's steer Barney, says he had to cheat to compete on a national level. "It's like anything in life, either racing cars or anything," said McEldowney, who has a small farm in Ansonia, Ohio, near Dayton. "If you're going to play on the same level, let's play on the same level."
He and seven others at the Ohio State Fair were caught either drugging their animals with clenbuterol or injecting oil under their skin to give them a better appearance. His daughter, Jessica, was banned for life from showing at the state fair and had to return the $4,000 paid for her steer.
An Ohio Agriculture Department investigation led to the convictions of 10 people for either selling clenbuterol or tampering with livestock, and two Wisconsin veterinarians and one in Iowa have been indicted in the drug distribution scheme.
At the Tulsa State Fair in Oklahoma, six of the top animals tested positive for the drug. And in Louisville, Ky., clenbuterol was found last fall in the grand champion lamb at the North American International Livestock Expo.
The drug is most often smuggled in through Canada, where it is legally used to treat horse respiratory problems, FDA official George "Bert" Mitchell said. No human health problems have been reported domestically, however; only small amounts of drug residue have been detected in the eyeballs of the show animals.
McEldowney estimates 30 percent or more of exhibitors have used clenbuterol on their show animals. Barbara Wood, livestock director for the Tulsa State Fair that disqualified the six cheaters last year, puts the number at about 20 percent.
"At this time a year ago, I tried to deny we had a big problem, but I've changed my mind. It's a serious problem," said Eddie Smith, Oklahoma state supervisor of agricultural education and adviser to the Future Farmers of America. "I'm sure there's always been a little fudging here and fudging there, but it's definitely gotten a lot worse.
Irwin Fishman, owner of Lombardi Brothers Meat Packers, has purchased the grand champion at the National Western Stock Show for the past four years -- including drugged-up Badger. Framed photographs of him posing with the past grand champions line his Denver office wall. "I ought to take them all down," said Fishman, who got his money back, but still feels suckered. "I really thought these were young 4-H kids in high school that had raised this steer from a young animal, slept with them, made sure they had water. Maybe I'm overly naive," he said.
The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has received information that "Clenbuterol," a drug that has not been approved in the United States, may be illegally imported from Canada, or other countries, for use in show beef cattle and other show livestock. The drug is reported to have dramatic effects upon muscle development and as a repartitioning agent in altering the lean to fat ratio. Recently, in Spain, there have been reports of acute poisoning of humans from their consumption of liver from clenbuterol-treated animals.
Clenbuterol is approved in Canada as an injectable and in various oral dosage forms for use solely in horses. The authorized source is Boehringer Ingelheim of Canada, under the trade name "Ventipulmin." The manufacturer is Ingelheim-on-the-Rhine, in Germany. The drug cannot be legally imported into the United States, except under an investigation exemption. CVM has been informed but has not yet confirmed that veterinarians in the U.S. can obtain the drug from a Canadian source merely on the basis of a telephone call. We do not know the mode of shipment or if the entries are formal, informal, or clandestine. We do know, however, that the drug is in a gelatinous form packaged in bottles for encapsulating by the user, and is shipped to the United States in a form not approved in Canada. The actual product containers or labels have not yet been seen by the Center.
INSTRUCTIONS : Automatically detain all shipments of "Clenbuterol," in any form, unless the drug is imported under an approved INAD. Clenbuterol ("Ventipulmin") is usually or normally shipped from Canada, but may be shipped from other countries as well. Shipments may be directed to veterinarians or individuals. Because there are serious adverse public health implications when Clenbuterol is used in food-producing animals, this drug is inappropriate for release under the personal importation policy.
The growth-promoting drug Clenbuterol -- commonly known as 'angel dust' -- was banned seven years ago, yet its use in the meat industry is still widespread, despite the fact that it is known to pass into the food chain. In humans its side-effects are not only unpleasant but sometimes fatal.
In 1991 ox liver was responsible for the hospitalisation of 135 people in Spain. Throughout the rest of Europe, thousands more offal consumers have suffered symptoms such as dizziness, tremors and heart palpitations, all of which can be traced to a single source: the growth-promoting drug Clenbuterol. There has been at least one death to date.
Clenbuterol -- also known as 'angel dust' -- is illegal yet its grip on the livestock industry is unrelenting. Its distribution channels are shrouded in mafia-like mystery, and those vets and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) trying to clamp down on the drug's widespread use have been shot at, petrol bombed and some have even had their cars blown up.
The use of illegal drugs in the meat industry has its roots in the post-war intensification of agriculture. Food shortages and ration books convinced governments and food producers that increased levels of production had to become their principal aim, no matter what the cost. 'Factory' farming was heralded as the answer, and as more animals were crammed into ever smaller sheds and out-buildings, diseases became rife. Farmers and vets turned to antibiotics in an attempt to overcome this problem and found that an unexpected bonus was increased levels of growth in the animals.
Pharmaceutical companies were quick to spot a potential gold mine. The race was on to develop growth-promoting drugs. The first widely available growth promoter was diethylstilbestrol (DES); injected into an animal's muscle tissue this prompted a rapid gain in pre-slaughter weight.
By the 1960s the dangerous and carcinogenic properties of DES had become known and some countries banned its use. However as recently as 1980 infant boys in Italy started developing breasts and girls were showing signs of puberty at less than one year of age. Their abnormalities were attributed to DES, found in certain meat-based baby foods.
The public naturally was shocked, a clampdown followed and in 1988 a whole range of growth-promoting drugs were banned by the EC. The meat and pharmaceutical industries put up a fight but could not block the legislation: only Britain voted against the ban with the United States joining the fray as soon as the ban was extended to imports. They retaliated with sanctions on many EC products, from canned tomatoes to fruit juice.
Clenbuterol was finally banned in 1987, but legislation has done little to curb its use. An EC report on its illegal application was suppressed for more than 12 months before finally being released in a much-tempered form. One Belgian MEP who saw the original report - and has since had threats made upon his life - claims that Clenbuterol is to be found in 80 per cent of the cattle in Belgium and 60 per cent in Holland. In Britain up to a quarter of our cattle may still be receiving the drug illegally.
A beta-agonist, Clenbuterol is related to the drugs used by body builders. It accelerates the building of muscle tissue while breaking down body fat. Small quantities added to an animal's feed can boost a carcass' lean meat by up to 15 per cent while reducing its fat content by 30 per cent. Manufactured in Eastern Europe, it is smuggled into the EC by a network of dealers known as the 'hormone mafia'.
Earlier this year MAFF had to withdraw Belgian pork liver pate from supermarket shelves after discovering levels of Clenbuterol 40 per cent higher than those allowed for medical purposes. As with many food-poisoning instances, the effects of Clenbuterol in humans may well be attributed to other less sinister complaints and so go undetected. Common symptoms suffered soon after digestion can include dizziness, headaches, muscle tremors and heart palpitations. Poisoning on a scale similar to Spanish or French incidents has yet to occur in Britain, but Clenbuterol is undoubtedly present in our meat products.
The long-term effects of Clenbuterol are also a cause for concern. The drug is known to accumulate in the liver which could well cause serious damage over a period of time. Those who suffer from heart disease may also be at risk, as the beta blocker drugs prescribed to combat their high blood pressure can be neutralised by minute amounts of Clenbuterol. The drug is reportedly also capable of inducing asthma attacks, so those with chest complaints should be especially wary of products which could be contaminated.
Clenbuterol is used in several European countries by animal trainers to build muscle mass and strength in exhibition livestock. It has never been approved for any use in the United States. Athletes use clenbuterol because they think it has the same mass and strength building capability in people as it does in animals.
But clenbuterol also has serious, immediate side effects in humans. In Spain, between March and July 1990, 135 people became ill after eating beef liver that contained clenbuterol residues. Their symptoms included fast heart rate, muscle tremors, headache, dizziness, nausea, fever and chills. Symptoms appeared from 30 minutes to six hours after they ate the liver and lasted for nearly two days.
In large doses, clenbuterol can give produce tension, cramps, tremors, a slightly higher heart rate and palpitations, the article said. And its long-term effects are not known, said the article's lead author, Irvine D. Prather of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. Clenbuterol has legal medical uses in some nations. It relaxes the muscles controlling the bronchial tubes. Clenbuterol is not approved for medical use in the United States and is banned by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the NCAA. The U.S.D.A. has not approved clenbuterol for use in livestock, but some veterinary studies have found the drug builds lean tissue and burns fat in animals, the article said.
Athletes who use steroids realize that drug tests will catch them unless they can quit far enough ahead to clear traces of steroids from their systems, Prather said. So they finish off with clenbuterol, which the body clears in 2 or 3 days, he said. Clenbuterol probably won't match steroids as a drug of abuse, Prather said. "It's nowhere near as effective as steroids," he said. "Word on the street is that it probably doesn't work all that well by itself, so people probably use it with traditional anabolic steroid agents."
Copyright 1995, The Detroit News
Clenbuterol (known as Ventipulmin, a registered veterinary medicine produced by Boehringer Ingelheim) mimics the quality of anabolic steroids, of turning fat into muscle. Beef produced with clenbuterol is less fat!
Clenbuterol is only effective in relatively high doses - you need much more than a normal dosis than is prescribed for the lung problems. Clenbuterol is relatively easy to produce and related to salbutamol, cimaterol, etc. - used as dope in athletics. The most effective one - as growth stimulator - is clenbuterol. Clenbuterol is forbidden in Europe as a growth stimulator, but not as a medicine.
Farmers sometimes say when the urine of beef cattle contains traces of clenbuterol: my calf had lung problems and I had to cure the disease.
-- An earnest, determined high school kid takes steroids to bulk up. He's one of 500,000 U.S. youth who have done that.
-- A sports official hides test results that could give his event a black eye -- and explain why some top runners had such a good week.
-- A doctor admits he prescribed and monitored illegal drugs for athletes so they wouldn't "get their steroids on the black market without medical supervision."
The doc may be the most troubling of the three. A few years ago, the assistant director of the American Medical Association's Division of Drugs and Toxicology estimated that 20 percent of all steroids are prescribed by physicians.
The medical literature has numerous editorials in which doctors are urged to tell young athletes that most of the performance-enhancing drugs are "dangerous, illegal, and immoral."
There has been an epidemic of amnesia in the doctors' lounge. What happened that doctors need to be (ITAL) told (END ITAL) to explain this to their patients? Sure, sports doctors are always in a bind. They're sworn to do what's best for their patients' health, and obligated also, by the nature of their business, to make them winners. A few continue to favor the team over the patient.
Their smorgasbord goes well beyond steroids. Right now there's a black market in human growth hormone, which is produced by DNA technology to help dwarfed babies attain normal height. In athletes, it builds body mass without fat.
And long before the authorities caught on, athletes found that Clenbuterol, an asthma drug, will not only build muscle, but increase lung capacity and act as a stimulant.
Most "enhancer" drugs have serious potential side effects, but a win-happy society makes denial easy. We haven't heard much about this sort of thing lately. That may be because of the code of silence among image-obsessed sports promoters -- all the way up the line from your local high school to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The BBC reported in 1984 that officials of the IOC and the Los Angeles organizing committee tried to cover up nine positive drug tests. When the IOC medical commission refused to go along, somebody broke into the commission president's hotel room and stole the test results.
It's clear that winking at the rules -- unethical acts aimed at creating an uneven playing field -- is a thing that can eventually compromise the integrity of all sport. It's the only way we can return to the days when "sports booster" meant merely somebody who loved the game.
(By Bruce Hilton, director of the National Center for Bioethics, who has been an ethics consultant to doctors, hospitals and patients since 1972. He welcomes your letters via Compuserve (70523,1071) or America Online (Ethctee).
Copyright © 1996 Nando.net ... Jun 11, 1996
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