USDA Rescinds "Raised without Antibiotics" Label from Tyson Chicken
I bring you an update on the Tyson Foods "raised without antibiotics" labeling case.
The back story, briefly, is that Tyson was selling chicken under the label "raised without antibiotics." The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry, signed off on the use of the label. Tyson's competitors, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms, cried foul (excuse my word choice) and challenged Tyson's use of the label in court and with the USDA. A federal judge in Baltimore ruled last month that Tyson had to stop using the claim in its advertising.
That brings us to this week. Tyson on Monday said it would voluntarily stop using the label until the standards for using the label are a little clearer. Tyson is referring to the fact that USDA considers the chicken feed additive ionophores antibiotics while the Food and Drug Administration does not, at least not as a factor in creating drug resistance in people, which is the scenario public health experts fear is developing because of overused antibiotics in food animals.
Turns out Tyson doesn't have much of a choice. The news on Tuesday came from USDA, which announced it was formally rescinding use of the label based on new information it received about Tyson's practices. I'll quote from the statement of Undersecretary of Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond:
"FSIS found that they routinely used the antibiotic Gentamicin to prevent illness and death in chicks.Because of this information, FSIS notified Tyson Foods, Inc. that the company must stop using the qualified raised without antibiotics labels, or any variation of a "Raised without antibiotics" claim by June 18."
FSIS told the company on May 23 that it would be reviewing its policies on "raised without antibiotics" labeling.
My question is: will you even notice? Do you buy based on whether a piece of chicken has antibiotics in it? Or do you buy based on the brand, the taste, and/or the price?
UPDATE on the UPDATE: Amanda Eamich, the spokeswoman for the Food Safety and Inspection Service of USDA informs me that FDA and USDA do agree that ionophores are antibiotics. The FDA didn't put it as explicity as USDA but there was no disagreeement.A'ight?
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