Consumers Demand Truth in Egg Labeling in Lawsuit Against U.S. GovernmentPosted on July 24, 2014
Lawsuit Asks Government to Require “Eggs from Caged Hens” Label on Egg Cartons
For immediate release:
Megan Backus, ALDF
Cheryl Leahy, Compassion Over Killing
OAKLAND, Calif. — The nonprofit animal protection organizations Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Compassion Over Killing (COK) have filed a motion for summary judgment in their lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding mandatory labels on egg cartons to accurately reflect animal welfare conditions of egg-laying hens. The lawsuit (filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division) urges the federal agencies to regulate the use of animal welfare claims on egg cartons sold in the U.S. According to the lawsuit, the agencies have unreasonably failed to address this consumer protection matter which was first raised in a 2006 federal rulemaking petition seeking to mandate the full disclosure of egg production methods on cartons, including the clear identification of “eggs from caged hens.” Today’s motion argues the agencies’ denial of the petition is arbitrary and capricious and asks the court to order the agencies to reconsider. Several Bay Area egg consumers who have been deceived by misleading animal welfare claims on egg cartons are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
In May 2013, in what appeared to be a major step forward for consumers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committed to addressing the issue and to providing a substantive answer to the petition by early September 2013. The lawsuit was put on hold pending the FDA’s decision; ultimately that agency denied the petition. With this motion, the district court is required to rule on whether the government acted arbitrarily and capriciously by denying the petitions.
Approximately 95% of all eggs sold in the U.S. come from birds crammed inside tiny wire cages no bigger than a piece of paper, in conditions where there is a high risk of Salmonella contamination. Yet misleading images on egg cartons often suggest hens are raised in natural, outdoor, settings where they can move freely, nest, raise their young, and forage for food. Research by the industry’s own experts suggests consumers are willing to pay more for eggs they perceive to have been more humanely produced.
“Consumers have a right to know the truth about the conditions of animals who lay the eggs sold in stores across the nation,” said ALDF executive director Stephen Wells. “Our government has a duty to mandate accurate labels, not to shield private corporations from being honest about what they produce.”
“Not only is the US egg industry cruelly confining nearly 300 million hens in wire battery cages so small they can barely move—it’s also deceiving consumers about that abuse,” says COK executive director Erica Meier. “Relying on the industry to regulate itself is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. It’s clear that federal oversight is urgently needed to put a stop to the rampant use of misleading and false claims on egg cartons.”
Bingham McCutchen, LLP is providing pro bono counsel in this case.
Copies of the lawsuit are available by request.
ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit aldf.org.
Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a national nonprofit animal protection organization. Since 1995, COK has worked to end the abuse of animals in agriculture through undercover investigations, public outreach, litigation, and other advocacy programs. COK is on the web at www.COK.net.