Tyson Foods has filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture in an attempt to defend its right to describe various chicken products as “raised without antibiotics”.
Earlier this month Tyson “voluntarily withdraw” advertising and labels claiming its chicken is made without antibiotics.
The move followed a Baltimore court ruling that Tyson’s claims was “misleading” US consumers. The court said that Tyson was using ionophores – an approved antibiotic – in chicken feed and injecting other antibiotics into chicken eggs in the run-up to hatching.
The court decision was the result of calls from Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms to stop the ads. Both companies claimed they had lost millions of dollars in sales.
Last year, the USDA said Tyson could label chicken as “raised without antibiotics”. However, the agency later reversed that decision after Tyson started marketing the products.
Tyson told just-food today (17 June) that it has filed a lawsuit against the USDA in the District Court of Columbia as chickens were not administered antibiotics from when they were hatched to when they were slaughtered.
In its complaint Tyson said the USDA condition that “administration of antibiotics in ovo can never qualify for a ‘raised without antibiotics label’ was adopted without observance of procedure required by law.” Tyson therefore called for the requirement to be “set aside” as it is “without force and effect”.
The company described the USDA move to prevent Tyson from advertising its chicken as free from antibiotics as “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion”.
The complaint calls on the court to force the USDA to issue a new rule on antibiotic labelling, following regulatory procedures.
Tyson also claimed that the date set for withdrawal of its antibiotic free labelling was unreasonable, however, this complaint has already been settled.
“We have withdrawn our request for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction because the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has agreed to give us a reasonable amount of time to secure, print and ship new labelling materials removing our qualified raising claim,” a spokesperson for the company told just-food. “The original date given was June 18th that has now been extended to July 9th.”