Tyson Foods Inc. has agreed to settle a lawsuit that accused the poultry giant of falsely claiming its chickens were “raised without antibiotics.” Under the settlement, which came about in a case pending in a Baltimore federal court, Tyson will pay up to $50 to anyone who bought poultry that was labeled antibiotics-free. The payout from Tyson will be capped at $5 million. If Tyson doesn’t give that much money back to consumers, it will make up the difference by donating products to food banks. Tyson will also have to pay legal fees. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has given preliminary approval to the settlement. Tyson will begin a national print and Internet advertising campaign to let people know how they can claim refunds.
Tyson began advertising and labeling its poultry products in 2007 as having been “raised without antibiotics.” The following year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered Tyson to remove the labels when it found that the company had injected its chickens with antibiotics before they hatched. Tyson argued the labels were accurate because chickens aren’t “raised” until after they’re born. Researchers believe the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has fueled the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs,” which killed more than 65,000 people in the United States last year.
The class-action consumer lawsuit grew out of the USDA probe and a previous lawsuit filed by Tyson’s competitors over its ad campaign. Tyson was said to have taken advantage of the growing market for organic and natural foods. James J. Pizzirusso, a lawyer from Washington, D.C., represented the Plaintiffs and it appears he did a very good job.
Source: Associated Press
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