Tyson settles consumer class-action suit
January 15, 2010
BALTIMORE, MD. – Tyson Foods, Inc., Springdale, Ark., has settled a consumer class-action lawsuit over its now-suspended chicken “Raised Without Antibiotics” advertising campaign. Filed on Jan. 12 in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the settlement agreement indicates consumers who purchased the product may receive as much as $50 each. The total cost to Tyson is $5 million, with $600,000 set aside to cover administrative costs.
“We’re pleased a settlement has been reached and we will now wait for the court to review and we hope approve the agreement,” said Gary Mickelson, Tyson spokesman. “Our ‘Raised Without Antibiotics’ chicken initiative, which we started in 2007, was suspended in 2008 due to labeling challenges. While we believe our company acted appropriately, we also believe it makes sense for us to resolve this legal matter and move on.”
Judge Richard D. Bennett is scheduled to conduct a preliminary fairness hearing on the case today.
Tyson’s Raised Without Antibiotics initiative was plagued with problems from its beginning. In the fall of 2007, after Tyson Foods had gone to market with the Raised Without Antibiotics label, the U.S. Department of Agriculture informed the company it had made a mistake during the label approval process. Ionophores, an ingredient used in poultry feed but not used in human medicine, are classified as an antibiotic. As a result, Tyson developed and received approval for a new label featuring the message “Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics That Impact Antibiotic Resistance in Humans.”
In April 2008, Tyson’s labeling initiative was dealt another blow when a U.S. District Court Judge in Baltimore granted a preliminary injunction preventing the company from marketing its chicken “Raised Without Antibiotics That Impact Antibiotic Resistance in Humans.” The suit, brought by chicken processors Sanderson Farms, Inc., and Perdue Farms, argued that Tyson’s advertisements were misleading because no companies use such drugs in raising poultry. FBN