Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tyson Foods Enjoined from Claiming "Raised Without Antibiotics"

Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms v. Tyson Foods
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
Civil Case No. RDB-08-210 (April 22, 2008)
Opinion by U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a preliminary injunction against Tyson Foods from continuing advertising claiming that the company’s chicken is “Raised Without Antibiotics.” The Court found that Tyson uses ionophores (types of antibiotics that are not used in human medicines and therefore present “only a miniscule threat to antibiotic resistance in humans”) in its chicken feed. The Court also found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) erroneously approved Tyson’s “Raised Without Antibiotics” label application in May, 2007. The company was informed of the error in September 2007 and told USDA would revoke the prior approval for the label. In December, USDA approved Tyson’s application for a new label with qualifying language: “Raised Without Antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.” But Tyson continued its advertising campaign with the unqualified “Raised Without Antibiotics” claim and un-approved variations of the qualified claim, leading Sanderson and Perdue to file suit. The Court concluded that Tyson’s advertising labels were misleading to consumers, including the qualifying language regarding antibiotic resistance in humans. The Court noted that the phrase, ‘that impact antibiotic resistance in humans,’ is not understood by a substantial portion of the consumer public…[and] may even reinforce consumer misconception. … The public interest compels that this advertising stop and that a preliminary injunction be issued in this case.”

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