COK Co-Files Lawsuit against Federal Agencies for Failure to Regulate Deceptive Egg Labels
Lawsuit pushes for Mandatory Truth in Labeling on Cartons, including the claim “Eggs from Caged Hens”
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.
December 2016 Update: On Dec. 14, Compassion Over Killing argued in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California to protect consumers and hens from widespread misleading marketing claims on egg cartons. Our appeal highlights the need for and legal merits of the FDA mandating consistent and truthful production-method labeling on cartons, including the full disclosure of “eggs from caged hens.” Stay tuned for updates in this ongoing matter.
Jan. 2015 Update: Last month, the court disappointingly declined to order FDA, USDA, or FTC to create regulations that would correct the widespread misleading labeling of egg cartons. However, we are confident in the legal merits of the case, and recently filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—so that we can continue to fight for the interests of both animals and consumers.
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.
How You Can Help
Choose Egg-Free Foods: The best way each of us can help egg-laying hens is to leave their eggs out of our shopping carts. Discover delicious egg-free products and recipes
Share this page: Tell your friends and family about the hard-boiled truth of egg production and the misleading claims often found on cartons
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