USDA orders Tyson Foods to stop using antibiotic-free labels on poultry
Tyson Foods will no longer be allowed to use its “raised without antibiotics” label that the U.S. Department of Agriculture originally approved in May, due to a mix-up at the agency and disagreement over whether a medication used in Tyson’s chicken feed should be classified as an antibiotic. Tyson launched a $70 million ad campaign in June touting its fresh chicken as antibiotic-free and labeling it as such. But early this month, the USDA notified Tyson that it had made a mistake in approving the label as the agency had ignored its own longstanding policy of classifying a drug Tyson uses in chicken feed as an antibiotic. For its part, Tyson says the type of medication in its feed, known as ionophores, is more of an antimicrobial than an antibiotic since they target a single-celled intestinal invader in livestock and not bacteria. The company has until mid-December to either stop using the current label, remove the medication in its chicken feed, or submit text and supporting documents seeking an amended label. Tyson is reportedly seeking to change the label, emphasizing that the medication used in their feed doesn’t create antibiotic resistance in humans — the overriding fear leading consumers to choose antibiotic-free products.