A California federal court has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Sanderson Farms Inc. misleads consumers about the presence of antibiotics in its chickens. Friends of the Earth v. Sanderson Farms Inc., No. 17-3592 (N.D. Cal., entered December 3, 2018). The plaintiffs—several advocacy groups—assert that Sanderson's marketing misleads consumers into believing that its chickens are raised without antibiotics, while Sanderson argues that its labeling, advertisements and website communicate to consumers that the chicken products they purchase do not contain antibiotics. "Sanderson argues its infographic on its '100% Natural' webpage contains only true statements: it shows what ingredients are not added to the chicken and says nothing about antibiotic use or nonuse," the court stated. "Defendant appears to make an expressio unius argument: that because antibiotics are not included in the list of excluded artificial ingredients, a reasonable consumer could not conclude that antibiotics are also excluded. As…
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has failed to act on the organization's 2014 petition seeking certification for labeling claims about animal welfare and environmental stewardship during the meat and poultry production process. Animal Welfare Inst. v. USDA, No. 18-2621 (D.D.C., filed November 14, 2018). AWI's petition asserted that meat and poultry producers market food products as "humanely raised," made with "sustainable agricultural products," "raised in a stress free environment" and other similar claims despite allegedly exposing animals to "intensive confinement, barren and stressful housing conditions, and painful mutilations in order to increase production." AWI argues for the establishment of a certification program to verify marketing claims about animal welfare. According the complaint, USDA has not yet taken action on AWI's petition, allegedly resulting in an "unreasonable delay" in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
Russia has created a poultry-breeding program to reduce its dependence on meat imports, Bloomberg reports. The country has used Soviet technology—which created "a bigger and tastier version of Gallus gallus domesticus" that apparently nearly went extinct following the collapse of the government—to establish a program that aims to reduce foreign imports of food products. Bloomberg also notes that a "replacement program for potatoes" has been approved, while a program for sugar beets is in progress. "To our knowledge, no country has a large-scale poultry breeding program that competes with the major corporations," Bloomberg quotes a scientist with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization as saying. “They thought we wouldn’t be able to compete with them in a million years,” one of the scientists who worked on the Soviet project reportedly told the news outlet. “Now it’s a completely different situation. Friends are friends, but you know how it goes.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has lowered the age requirement for poultry carcasses to be classified as "roaster chickens." The previous standard required chickens to be eight weeks old and weight 5.5 pounds; according to a petition from the National Chicken Council, this standard prevented companies from labeling and marketing chickens as "roasters" even if they "met all the physical attributes apart from the minimum age requirement." Because of "continuous improvements in breeding and poultry management techniques," producers are able "to raise chickens with the characteristics of roasters in under 8 weeks," AMS has determined. The change took effect on August 6, 2018, the notice's publication date.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago are seeking an injunction against Kingdom Farms Wholesale Meats Inc. for allegedly packaging, selling and transporting products without federal marks of inspection and required labeling. U.S. v. Kingdom Farms Wholesale Meats Inc., No. 18-4155 (N.D. Ill., filed June 14, 2018). The complaint asserts that Kingdom Farms removed products from properly labeled shipping containers and repackaged and sold them without inspection marks and labeling, applied inspection labeling without authorization, and reused properly labeled shipping containers without authorization. The U.S. Attorney's Office alleges the defendants’ actions violated the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act and seeks a permanent injunction restraining them from misbranding or mislabeling products and compelling their compliance with the laws.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will host a public meeting on cultured meat, poultry and seafood on July 12, 2018. In a press release, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb asserted that the agency governs "both substances used in the manufacture of these products of animal cell culture technology and the products themselves that will be used for food" and grouped cultured meats with other "rapidly evolving areas of technological innovation" such as genetically engineered foods and microbial, algal and fungal cells generated and used as direct food ingredients. "The FDA remains committed to using our expertise in relevant scientific areas to evaluate the safety of emerging food technologies, such as foods generated by animal cell culture technology," according to Gottlieb's statement. "But as we mentioned, in addition to leveraging the existing expertise of our staff, we’re also investing in making sure we are considering all the unique attributes and challenges…
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that April 2018 proposed changes to the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) will be adopted. The amendments update several provisions, including "those concerning NPIP participation, voting requirements, testing procedures, and standards."
U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Angus King (I-Maine) have introduced a bill that "would allow meat and poultry products inspected by state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines," according to a press release. The senators assert that although the inspection programs of 27 states meet or exceed federal inspection standards and the meat is processed through facilities approved by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the products are not allowed to be sold across state lines. "Our bipartisan, commonsense bill will create new markets for producers and give consumers more choices at the grocery store, while continuing to maintain the high quality and safety standards necessary to keep consumers healthy," Rounds was quoted as saying.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed multiple amendments to the National Poultry Improvement Plan, including changes to committee participation and testing procedures for avian influenza, typhoid and other diseases. Public comments will be accepted through May 9, 2018.
Sanderson Farms Inc. lost a motion to dismiss false advertising claims brought by three advocacy organizations when a California federal court ruled that the claims are not preempted by either the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) or the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). Organic Consumers Ass’n v. Sanderson Farms Inc., No. 17-3592 (N.D. Cal., entered February 9, 2018). The groups alleged that Sanderson’s marketing materials—which asserted that the poultry was “100% Natural” with “no hidden ingredients” and that “100% natural means there’s only chicken in our chicken”—were misleading because of U.S. Department of Agriculture testing reportedly showing the presence of antibiotics, ketamine, pesticides and “other unnatural substance residues.” The court found that consumer-protection laws “are within the historic police powers resting with the states and are therefore subject to the presumption against preemption ... Consequently, they cannot be superseded by federal law or action unless it is the ‘clear and…