Court halts Tyson Foods' marketing campaign

by Staff
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BALTIMORE ― Tyson Foods Inc. will appeal a ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett in Baltimore that granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the protein processor from advertising that its chickens are “raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans."

Competitors Perdue Farms, Salisbury, Md., and Sanderson Farms, Inc., Laurel, Miss., both argued Tyson’s advertisements are misleading because no chicken companies use such drugs in raising poultry and shoppers may be led to think other poultry processors are using the drugs. Mr. Bennett said he felt "that the consumer public is being misled" by the "raised without antibiotics" advertising.

Sanderson Farms claimed it had lost a $4 million account to Tyson due to the advertising campaign. Perdue Farms claimed that since last year it has lost approximately $10 million in revenue.

Despite this legal setback, Tyson vowed to continue providing consumers with chicken raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans. It also will seek a stay to suspend the judge’s instruction to remove point-of-sale materials in stores that sell the products.

"We strongly disagree with this decision and will appeal since we firmly believe we have acted responsibly in the way we have labeled and marketed our products," said Dave Hogberg, senior vice-president of consumer products for Tyson Foods.

This is not the first time Tyson Foods has run into trouble with its marketing campaign. After receiving approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tyson started marketing some of its fresh chicken products under the "raised without antibiotics" label in the summer of 2007.

The U.S.D.A. went back to the company and said it had made an error during the approval process. As a result, Tyson had to change the slogan to "raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans." At the heart of the issue was a feed ingredient all poultry processors use.

The preliminary injunction does not affect Tyson’s use of the new label on its products. It does affect Tyson’s advertising of the products.

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