Tyson Loses a Game of “Chicken” after Doctors’ Challenge
Ads Claiming Chicken Products Are Heart-Healthy Violate Consumer Protection Law
WASHINGTON—After the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods over an ad alleged to be false and misleading, Tyson has pulled the Internet ad which had advised consumers to “serve chicken as often as you like” to ensure heart health.
“The truth is, chicken has nearly the same high concentrations of cholesterol and saturated fat as beef, and chicken consumption is a major contributor to heart disease and obesity,” says PCRM president and nutrition researcher Neal D. Barnard, M.D. “Americans now eat one million chickens per hour. And heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States. The last thing we need is misleading information that is unsupported by the scientific literature on heart disease prevention.”
Filed on 18 December 2002 in San Francisco, PCRM’s lawsuit charges Tyson with using deceptive advertising practices in two of the company’s campaigns. In addition to the ad campaign that has been withdrawn, a larger set of ads claims that Tyson chicken products are “all natural,” despite the vast quantities of antibiotics used and the high percentage of Tyson products likely to be contaminated with foodborne pathogens resistant to antibiotic treatment.
“Recent Consumer Reports tests showed disease-causing bacteria in more than 56 percent of Tyson chicken products and a high percentage of antibiotic resistance in these bacteria,” says PCRM staff attorney Jay Ukryn. “That is hardly ‘natural.’ Tyson has taken a step in the right direction by withdrawing its false claims that chicken is a heart-healthy food. Now it should also cancel its ‘All Natural’ campaign.” Tyson Foods, based in Arkansas, is the largest producer of poultry products in the United States.
Unlike the recently filed fast-food lawsuits, PCRM’s complaint does not ask for monetary damages.
To counter Tyson’s misinformation, PCRM launched a provocative counter-ad campaign last month with an ad titled “Natural Born Killers?” with a photograph of a gang of small chickens and text detailing Tyson’s false claims.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.