COK Co-Files Lawsuit against Federal Agencies for Failure to Regulate Deceptive Egg Labels
Walk into any grocery store in the US, and you’ll likely find cartons of eggs bearing a variety of advertising schemes ranging from images of happy hens roaming around outside to claims such as “animal-friendly.” Surprisingly though, what consumers see or read on the outside of an egg carton doesn’t necessarily represent how the hens who laid those eggs were treated.
Egg Label Claims
Animal welfare claims on egg cartons are currently unregulated in the United States, enabling egg producers to mislead consumers with exaggerated and false claims.
More than 95% of eggs sold in the US come from birds confined in tiny wire battery cages so restrictive, they can barely even move—a practice that, according to polls, most consumers find unacceptable. Furthermore, many experts agree that confining hens in battery cages causes tremendous suffering. Despite these expert opinions and widespread public opposition, battery cage confinement continues to dominate the U.S. egg industry.
However, without any federal oversight, claims on egg cartons can—and commonly do—misrepresent to consumers how those eggs were produced. Compassion Over Killing has documented several cases of express and implied claims on egg cartons across the country that imply a higher level of animal care than is actually the case. Deceptive marketing on cartons of eggs produced by birds likely to have been confined in cages include the claims “animal-friendly” and “naturally-raised” as well as images of hens outside on a green pasture.
In other words, not only is the egg industry cruelly confining hens in cages, it’s also deceiving consumers about that abuse. The egg industry in the U.S. has proven to be incapable of regulating itself, and without government standards in place, the current egg labeling landscape is essentially meaningless.
On March 28, 2013, Compassion Over Killing and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) co-filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration, two agencies within the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Trade Commission for failing to regulate animal welfare labeling on egg cartons.
The lawsuit is based on rule-making petitions originally submitted by COK to these agencies in 2006 and 2007 requesting that egg production methods be fully disclosed on all cartons sold in the U.S., including the clear identification of “eggs from caged hens.”
In spite of Congressional mandates, the agencies have failed to take any action to regulate the often-misleading claims and deceptive imagery widely found on egg cartons. Even the United Egg Producers, the U.S. egg industry’s trade association, has endorsed federal legislation containing a similar labeling program.
Mandatory labeling on egg cartons has already been implemented throughout the European Union and in several states in Australia. Consumers—and hens—in the U.S. deserve the same.
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