Facing a federal judge’s deadline to stop advertising “Raised Without Antibiotics” chicken, Tyson Foods announced that it will “voluntarily” withdraw its labels and ads. The giant meat processor is calling on the USDA to come up with new processes to “bring more clarity and consistency to labeling and advertising rules.” Tyson maintains that it was the victim of a policy change by the USDA on whether one substance was an antibiotic.
“We still support the idea of marketing chicken raised without antibiotics because we know it’s what most consumers want. However, in order to preserve the integrity of our label and our reputation as a premier company in the food industry, we believe there needs to be more specific labeling and advertising protocols developed to ensure the rules are clear and application of the rules is equitable," said Dave Hogberg, senior vice president of Consumer Products for Tyson Foods.
According to Tyson’s account, the company began marketing its Tyson’s Raised Without Antibiotic chicken products in May 2007 with USDA approval, because commonly-used antimicrobials known as ionophores were not characterized as antibiotics. However, the USDA reversed that position by the fall and then approved a qualified label: “Chicken raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.”
But then Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms sued in federal court, claiming that Tyson’s advertising was misleading. Although Tyson’s has called its withdrawal of the chicken labels and advertising “voluntary,” it faced a court order to drop the ads and had failed in its attempt to have the order blocked by a federal appeals court.