Tyson Withdraws 'Raised Without Antibiotics' Labels

Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale said Monday that it would voluntarily pull its "Raised Without Antibiotics" chicken labels and advertisements after continued confusion and controversy among competitors and consumers.

The United States Department of Agriculture originally approved Tyson's "Raised Without Antibiotics" chicken label application in May 2007. The approval allowed Tyson to advertise and label its chicken as raised without antibiotics despite the company's use of ionophores, a commonly used chicken feed ingredient.

But in the fall of 2007, the USDA reversed their decision saying it made a mistake in allowing Tyson to use the labels because some organizations have classified ionophores as antibiotics, even though they are not used in human medicine.

In December, the USDA approved a new label and industry guidelines allowing Tyson to use the claim "Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics That Impact Antibiotics Resistance in Humans." Tyson subsequently made the change to the "qualified" claim on its labels and advertising.

But the initial "Raised Without Antibiotics" claim and the qualified claim have both become the subject of a lawsuit by two competitors, a petition to the USDA by three competitors and a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of consumers.

Tyson's senior vice president of consumer products for Tyson Foods said the company made the decision to discontinue its claim of "Raised Without Antibiotics" "to preserve the integrity of our label and our reputation as a premier company in the food industry."

Consequently, Tyson has already begun designing and ordering new labels that will include no reference or claim to antibiotics. Chicken with the new labels will begin arriving in stores in about six weeks.

Products with the previous labels will continue to be sold.

In a news release issued Monday, Tyson said its change in the labels will not result in any major changes in the way it maintains the health of its birds and will continue its policy of not using antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion.