Tyson Settles in Controversial Ad Case

US - Tyson Foods has settled a consumer class action for $5 million, following a controversial advertising campaign.
calendar icon 14 January 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Chicken-processing company, Tyson Foods Inc., has settled a consumer class action brought over its controversial 'Raised Without Antibiotics' advertising campaign, according to Daily Record.

Under the agreement filed on 12 January in US District Court in Baltimore, individual consumers will receive as much as $50 each. The cost to Tyson is $5 million, with $600,000 of that amount set aside to cover administrative costs.

An attorney for the class called the agreement a "meaningful settlement that has real value" and "not just a 50-cent-off coupon placed in the Sunday paper".

James J. Pizzirusso, lawyer and partner at Hausfeld LLP in Washington, D.C. said: "It's about getting money in the hands of consumers and deterring this kind of conduct in the future."

He and other attorneys for the class, led by James P. Ulwick of Kramon & Graham P.A. in Baltimore, are expected to recover fees of up to $3 million, which is separate from the class members' recovery.

The $5 million to the class includes up to $20,000 in incentive awards to the four named plaintiffs – including one woman who bought Tyson's Raised Without Antibiotics chicken because her husband had had a heart transplant – and four more class members who were deposed in the case last year.

Judge Richard D. Bennett will conduct a preliminary fairness hearing on 15 January. A spokesman for Tyson said the company hopes the judge will approve the settlement.

Tyson's Food spokesman, Gary Mickelson, told ThePoultrySite: "Our 'Raised Without Antibiotics' chicken initiative, which we started in 2007, was suspended in 2008 due to labelling challenges. While we believe our company acted appropriately, we also believe it makes sense for us to resolve this legal matter and move on."

Daily Record reports that Tyson's chickens are given feed including ionophores, which the US Department of Agriculture classifies as antibiotics. Ionophores fight a widespread intestinal disease in poultry but, according to Tyson, do not affect human resistance to antibiotics.

Tyson added that limitation to its product labels after a battle with the USDA, which controls what can go on its labels. In June 2008, though, the USDA ordered Tyson to quit using even the narrower claim on the labels. Tyson sued the agency, but soon withdrew the action.

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