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Animal Protection Groups Urge “Eggs from Caged Hens” Labeling
Proposed Regulations Would Require Truthful Disclosure of Production to Protect Consumers from Increased Salmonella Risk, Misleading Marketing
September 21, 2010
Washington, D.C. — Today, animal protection organizations Compassion Over Killing (COK) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a petition calling upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mandate the full disclosure of production methods—including the identification of “eggs from caged hens”—on all egg cartons sold within the United States.
This request, originally submitted to the FDA in 2006, comes as lawmakers meet this week to question egg farm executives after this summer’s Salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 1,500 egg consumers. For four years, the FDA has failed to act upon this crucial consumer protection measure, which is now all the more urgent as studies link eggs from hens kept in tiny wire cages—like the half billion eggs just recalled—to an increased risk of Salmonella.
Animal welfare related claims on egg cartons are almost entirely unregulated in the U.S., rendering the labeling landscape nearly meaningless. Federal oversight is necessary to protect consumers from an array of false and misleading claims found on egg cartons nationwide. Phrases such as “animal-friendly,” as well as images of happy hens roaming around outside can be used indiscriminately on egg cartons, even when those eggs are produced by birds confined inside wire battery cages so restrictive that they can’t perform many of their most natural behaviors, including nesting, perching, spreading their wings, and even walking.
Polls show that most consumers oppose the intensive confinement of hens in cages—yet more than 95% of eggs produced in the U.S. come from battery-caged hens. Without government standards in place that mandate truth in labeling, fraudulent advertising on egg cartons has become rampant and consumers are being duped. To compound this consumer protection issue, several studies have concluded that confining hens in cages increases the risk of Salmonella infection in the birds, their eggs, and consumers who eat those eggs.
Egg consumers in Europe and Australia already benefit from similar mandatory production methods labeling on cartons. The egg industry in the U.S., however, vehemently opposes the implementation of a measure that would provide such information to American consumers.
“What’s the egg industry trying to hide?” asks Compassion Over Killing executive director Erica Meier. “If factory farmers really believe it’s appropriate to confine birds in battery cages where they can barely move, they should be willing to let consumers know about it.”
“Consumers expect and deserve meaningful information on food labels,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director Stephen Wells. “Mandatory disclosure labeling of eggs from caged hens on egg cartons has already been implemented throughout the European Union and Australia. It’s high time for similar standards to be implemented in the U.S.”
Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a nonprofit animal protection organization based in Washington, D.C. Since 1995, COK has worked to end the abuse of animals in agriculture through undercover investigations, public outreach, litigation, and other advocacy programs. On the web at COK.net.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (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 www.aldf.org.