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USDA orders Tyson to pull antibiotics-free chicken labels

November 20, 2007|From the Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has told Tyson Foods Inc. to stop labeling chicken as "raised without antibiotics" after the agency said it made a mistake in approving that term.

Tyson disputed the finding Monday and said it hoped to win approval for a modified label.

The world's largest meat processor said it has been in discussions for months with the USDA about the label it introduced this summer in a major marketing campaign for its fresh chicken.

According to a Nov. 6 letter from the USDA, the agency told Tyson it had mistakenly overlooked a feed additive -- called ionophores -- used for Tyson's chicken when it approved the no-antibiotics label.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has a long-standing policy of classing ionophores as antibiotics, according to the letter.

Tyson said the additives weren't antibiotics.

"We stand by the truthfulness of our product labels and remain fully committed to our Raised Without Antibiotics chicken program," the Springdale, Ark.-based company said in a statement.

The USDA gave Tyson a temporary stay of 45 days from Nov. 6 to submit a new label and new arguments, to change its feed formula or to stop using the label.

A Tyson spokesman said the company would seek approval for a label that says "raised without antibiotics" but adds qualifying language about ionophores.

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