Press Release

Animal Legal Defense Fund Calls for Full Disclosure of Factory Egg Farm Conditions by FDA

Court of Appeal Arguments Wednesday on Suit Asserting Agency is Concealing Information Affecting Public Safety


San Francisco, CA — On Wednesday, December 9th, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments by the Animal Legal Defense Fund on its lawsuit to compel the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to produce inspection reports of factory egg farms without censoring important information about hen population and living conditions.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request in December 2011 to obtain information related to total hen population and population density at factory egg farms, which the FDA collects under the Egg Safety Rule but refuses to make public at the behest of the egg industry.

Conditions at factory farms have a direct bearing on food safety—high population density and unsanitary conditions are associated with diseases like Salmonella and bird flu—and animal welfare.  The FDA redacted significant information in its FOIA response, contending that egg production information would cause competitive harm.

In 2013, a magistrate judge ordered the FDA to disclose information to Animal Legal Defense Fund regarding number of birds per cage, the first time a federal court has ordered the disclosure of records regarding factory farmed eggs. But the court denied Animal Legal Defense Fund’s request for other information regarding conditions of confinement, including total hen population.

On appeal, Animal Legal Defense Fund is arguing that the FDA did not provide sufficient evidence of competitive harm to justify redacting information about animal confinement on factory egg farms. Animal Legal Defense Fund is also arguing that the magistrate judge improperly credited the FDA’s witnesses over Animal Legal Defense Fund’s own witnesses, and that Animal Legal Defense Fund was entitled to probe the FDA’s theory of competitive harm by deposing executives in the egg industry who submitted declarations on the FDA’s behalf.

“There is no such thing as too much transparency when it comes to our food supply,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The FDA should stop protecting the interests of the egg industry above the interests of the public. The FDA works for the American public and has an obligation to ensure the safety of the food we eat.”

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