NEW YORK Tyson Foods said it would appeal the ruling of a federal judge in Baltimore, who has granted a preliminary injunction against the marketing Tyson has used saying that its poultry products don’t contain antibiotics thought to promote drug resistance in humans.
Last June, responding to what it called “broad-scale consumer demand,” Tyson said that the chicken it sells in supermarkets would be raised without using antibiotics and launched a $70 million campaign aimed at mothers, featuring the tag, “Thank you.” Havas-owned Arnold in Boston crafted the push.
Competitors Perdue and Sanderson argued that Tyson’s ads are misleading because none of the companies uses those types of drugs and consumers could be led to believe they and other companies are using the drugs. Sanderson said it lost $4 million in sales since last year as a result of the Tyson campaign, while Perdue contended it lost $11 million.
In his ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett said he was convinced “that the consumer public is being misled” by Tyson’s “Raised without antibiotics” marketing. Last spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tyson, Springdale, Ark., could label its foods as “raised without antibiotics.” However, the USDA later reversed that decision. Tyson was eventually allowed to say its products are “raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans,” per the company.
“We firmly believe we have acted responsibly in the way we have labeled and marketed our products,” said Dave Hogberg, Tyson’s svp, consumer products.
In a statement late yesterday, Tyson said the company is not currently running any ads but was planning to resume marketing for the campaign just before the start of the summer grilling season. The decision also affects point-of-purchase materials including posters and brochures, which are used in stores where the product is sold. Tyson said it intends to seek a stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals to suspend the judge’s order.
“We’ve received overwhelming customer support for this product line and intend to do everything possible to continue making it available to our customers and consumers,” Scott Rouse, svp, customer development at Tyson, said in a statement.