A County Tyrone poultry farmer was convicted today at Dungannon Crown Court in connection with the illegal importation of unlicensed prescription veterinary medicines.
Paul Hobson, 60, who ran a poultry farming business on Mullybrannon Road, Dungannon, has been sentenced to nine months with three years suspended sentence after pleading guilty in court to various charges including illegal importation, attempted importation and obstruction of the Enforcement Ministry of Health officers.
The court heard that law enforcement officials from the Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG) in October 2019 in a joint search operation involving police, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Directorate of Veterinary Medicines (VMD).
The search follows the earlier interception by Border Patrol agents of a large quantity of the unauthorized veterinary antibiotic amoxicillin, which was en route from China and bound for the farm. The search also found other evidence of illegal importation of veterinary medicines.
Following the search, a culling of all poultry on the premises, which totaled over 160,000 chickens, was necessary to ensure food chain safety and public safety.
Peter Moore, Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer at the Department of Health, who led the inquiry, said: “This conviction sends a clear message that there will be serious consequences if an individual attempts to circumvent the regulated system and controls in place to ensure compliance are public safety and integrity of the food chain. This illegal activity could have endangered members of the public.
“However, the public can have confidence that the Medicines Regulatory Group and its partner statutory agencies at the local and national levels will take decisive action to prevent and detect those who operate in this way.”
Canice Ward, head of the Department’s Medicines Regulatory Group, added: “This was one of the largest quantities of unlicensed veterinary prescription antibiotics seized in Northern Ireland. The perpetrator in this case acted recklessly by importing products without being able to confirm their actual contents, whether they were effective, whether they would harm animals or humans, or whether they were manufactured, stored or transported under correct conditions. He also took the risk that potentially harmful drug residues could appear in food derived from food-producing animals and pose a significant risk to human health.”
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most serious health threats. The department promotes the responsible use of antimicrobials, particularly antibiotics, in human and veterinary medicine, food-producing animals and companion animals. The spread of antimicrobial resistance in the environment is also a growing concern.
The emergence and spread of drug-resistant germs is driven by the overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics in both humans and animals. Antimicrobial resistance to veterinary drugs not only affects human and animal health and welfare, but could also have a major impact on the agribusiness as a whole through its potential impact on trade.