A poultry producers coalition has reportedly launched a campaign to end “natural” labeling claims for chickens enhanced with water, salt or binding agents such as carrageenan. Sanderson Farms, Inc., Foster Farms and Gold’n Plump Poultry have asked USDA, which is currently redrafting its rules on “natural” claims, to exclude chicken products that are mechanically injected or tumbled with a marinade solution to improve appearance and moisture retention. The current definition specifies only that products cannot contain artificial ingredients and must be “minimally processed.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) contends that “some unscrupulous poultry producers add as much as 15 percent saltwater–and then have the gall to label such pumped-up poultry products ‘natural.’” U.S. Representatives Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) and Charles Pickering (R-Miss.) claimed in a recent press release that approximately 33 percent of fresh chicken sold to consumers was altered via injection or “vacuum tumbling.” They also argued that such products contain 800 percent more sodium than the plain version. USDA, however, reportedly asserts that the addition of saltwater and binding agents does not significantly differ from the tenderizing techniques that consumers use at home. See The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2007; CSPI Press Release and Truthful Labeling Coalition Press Release, May 22, 2007.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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