From: Reuters
Published November 19, 2007 09:26 PM

USDA reverses itself on Tyson antibiotic label: report

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture told Tyson Foods Inc the department made a mistake and that the second-largest U.S. chicken producer could no longer label products as "raised without antibiotics," the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Tyson has spent tens of millions of dollars since June on an advertising and labeling campaign and is now scrambling to salvage the label, the Journal reported in an article published online.

The decision, disclosed in a previously nonpublic letter dated November 6, comes after Tyson received USDA approval in May to label products as "raised without antibiotics" -- a coup as consumers are increasingly concerned about the use of antibiotics in raising animals.

Now the USDA says it made a mistake in approving the label, the Journal said.


Daniel Engeljohn, an official at the USDA office that oversees labeling decisions, told the newspaper the department was trying to ensure labels are truthful and not misleading.

"Our consistent position is if you're going to make a raised-without-antibiotics claim that there will be no antibiotics that were included in the feed during the life of the animal," the Journal quoted him as saying.

Tyson disagrees with the decision and has been in discussions with the USDA trying to "convince them that we are right and that they made a mistake," Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson told the Journal, adding that the company intends to have the issue resolved before Thanksgiving.

Tyson was not available for immediate comment on the report.

(Reporting by Ilaina Jonas; Editing by Braden Reddall)

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