Agency responds to Lawsuit Pushing for Mandatory Disclosure of “Eggs from Caged Hens”
For immediate release:
May 6, 2013
OAKLAND, Calif. – In a major step forward for consumers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responded to a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit animal protection organizations Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Compassion Over Killing (COK) regarding the urgent need to regulate the use of animal welfare claims on egg cartons sold in the U.S. The groups claim in the lawsuit that FDA has unreasonably failed to address this matter, which was first raised in a 2006 federal rulemaking petition seeking to mandate the full disclosure of egg production methods, including clear statements that consumers are purchasing “eggs from caged hens.” In response to the complaint filed last month, the FDA has committed to addressing this issue and to providing a substantive answer to the petition by early September, 2013. The lawsuit is stayed pending the Agency’s decision.
Several Bay Area egg consumers who have been deceived by misleading animal welfare claims on egg cartons are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Bingham McCutchen, LLP are providing pro bono counsel in this case.
Approximately 95% of all eggs sold in the U.S. come from birds crammed inside tiny wire cages where they cannot even fully stretch their wings. 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 a premium for eggs they perceive to have been more humanely produced.
FDA’s action comes at a time when wide-reaching federal legislation is pending to reform animal welfare requirements for egg-laying hens. Even the United Egg Producers (UEP), the U.S. egg industry’s trade association, has endorsed this federal legislation, which contains labeling requirements similar to those requested in the rulemaking petition.
FDA’s commitment to addressing the issue of egg labeling standards is an encouraging step for consumers and animals. “Egg industry marketing is rife with misleading animal welfare claims, and it’s time for the federal government to step up to plate by requiring truthful labeling,” says Cheryl Leahy, general counsel for COK. “If the egg industry truly believes it’s acceptable to confine hens in tiny wire cages, then they should be willing to tell consumers about it.”
“After years of ignoring deceptive labeling on egg cartons, the FDA has decided to pay attention to the growing public demand for transparency,” said ALDF executive director Stephen Wells. “Egg producers are selling cruelly-produced food to well-intentioned consumers, and it is high time for the government to take action.”
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.