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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a number of developments in their work on organic food, poultry and food safety. FDA released an update on the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), announcing it will track outcomes for FSMA rules for inspections and recalls via the Food Safety Dashboard. One metric the agency will track is how quickly a company issues a public notice for a Class 1 recall for human and animal food. FDA has also released guidance on recall plans for its multipart guidance on “how to comply with the requirements for hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls under our rule entitled ‘Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food.’” USDA updated the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) Program Standards to incorporate proposed changes published in April 2019, including the amendment of the testing…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Trader Joe's Co. sells raw poultry products that contain more retained water than indicated on the package. Webb v. Trader Joe's Co., No. 19-1587 (S.D. Cal., removed August 23, 2019). The complaint alleges that the retained water in some packaged poultry was found to be as much as 16% but labeled as a maximum of 5%. "Poultry products are sold by weight," the plaintiff argues. "Excess Retained Water in the product unlawfully increases the price the consumer pays and decreases the value of the product, cheating the consumer." The plaintiff asserts eight causes of action, including theft by false pretenses and unjust enrichment, and seeks class certification, restitution and damages.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released guidance on meal kits requiring inspection by the agency's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The guidance indicates that meal kits do not require assembly subject to FSIS inspection if (i) the "meat or poultry component is prepared and separately packaged under FSIS inspection and labeled with all required features"; (ii) the "outer kit label identifies all of the individual components in the kit"; and (iii) the "outer kit label clearly identifies the product as a single unit or 'kit,' such as 'Chicken BBQ Dinner Kit' and 'Beef Lasagna Meal.'"

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will accept comments on proposed changes to the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) Program Standards until May 13, 2019. Changes include an amended testing protocol for Mycoplasma, amended Salmonella isolation procedures and updated cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking to identify the poultry-production plants associated with an outbreak of Salmonella. CSPI requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) deliver information on the "name, address, establishment number, and date of positive sample(s)" for poultry products that "tested positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis" in raw chicken and "Salmonella Reading" in raw turkey. "In addition to granting the current FOIA request, which may be done by delivering the data to CSPI directly or posting it on the USDA website, CSPI also requests that the USDA develop a practice for reporting this information publicly in all similar multi-source outbreaks moving forward," the request states.

The Organic Consumers Association and Food & Water Watch Inc. have filed a lawsuit alleging that Pilgrim's Pride Corp. misrepresents the conditions in which it raises its chickens. Food & Water Watch Inc. v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (D.C. Super. Ct., filed February 4, 2019). The complaint alleges that "Pilgrim's Pride systematically raises, transports, and slaughters chickens in inhumane factory-farm conditions," including "the routine use of antibiotics," "crowding," "the use of toxic chemicals," "the use of artificially selected fast-growing, breast-heavy chicken breeds," and "the abuse of chickens by Pilgrim's Pride contractors and employees." The organizations focus on Pilgrim's Pride's representations that its chickens are fed "only natural ingredients" and are not fed "growth hormones of any kind" as well as its assertions that the company "strongly supports the humane treatment of animals." The advocacy groups allege that Pilgrim's Pride has violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act and seek…

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.

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