Tyson Foods began its "Raised Without Antibiotics" chicken initiative in 2007. But, the initiative was suspended in 2008 due to labeling challenges. A consumer class action lawsuit followed, which has now been settled. An agreement filed Tuesday night in U.S. District Court in Baltimore provides that individual consumers will receive as much as $50 apiece, up to a maximum of $4.4 million, to consumers who bought certain products between certain dates in 2007 and 2009. A judge must approve the deal.
Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson told Meatingplace, that while they believe their company acted appropriately, they also believe it makes sense to resolve this legal matter and move on.
The case originated in January 2008 when poultry competitors Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms sued Tyson alleging its raised-without-antibiotics labeling constituted false advertising. At issue were ionophores, a chicken feed additive used by all three companies that is classified by USDA as an antibiotic. Because ionophores have not been shown to pose a significant risk to humans, Tyson wanted to advertise its chicken as being without harmful antibiotics. The phrase was approved by USDA.