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Poultry Giants Battle Over Antibiotics

April 10, 2008
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The Associated Press is reporting that Perdue Farms wants competitor Tyson to be more honest in its advertising.

Salisbury-based Perdue Farms Inc. and Laurel, Miss.-based Sanderson Farms Inc. are asking a federal judge to order Tyson Foods Inc. to stop making what they say are misleading claims. Tyson, meanwhile, is asking U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett to dismiss the lawsuit.

The two companies claim advertisements that say Tyson''s poultry products don''t contain antibiotics thought to affect drug resistance in humans are misleading because none of the companies uses those types of drugs. By making the claim, shoppers could be led to think other companies are using the drugs, the plaintiffs told Bennett.

Sanderson said it lost a $4 million account to Tyson because of the advertising campaign, and Perdue claims it has lost about $10 million in revenue since last year.

All three companies use feed containing ionophores, which are largely considered to be antibiotics. However, the substances are not used in humans and thus are not believed to raise human health concerns.

Last spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tyson, based in Springdale, Ark., could label its foods as "raised without antibiotics." The USDA later reversed that decision after Tyson had spent money on advertising and packaging. Tyson was later allowed to say its products are "raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans."

Attorney Randall Miller, who is lead counsel for Perdue and Sanderson, said his clients could make similar claims but believe they are deceptive and have refused to do so.

A Tyson spokesman said the company''s two rivals were trying to use the courts "to circumvent the regulatory judgment of USDA."
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