Watchdog groups sue Tyson Foods, allege false marketing of environmental stewardship

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,125 views 

Environmental groups Food & Water Watch and the Organic Consumer Association have sued Tyson Foods, alleging deceptive marketing and advertising. The groups say it is false for Tyson Foods to claim its continued commitment toward environmental stewardship and sustainability when the meat company had more than 300 wastewater Clean Water Act (CWA) permit violations between 2013 and 2015.

The 59-page complaint, filed in the Superior Court of Washington, D.C., claims Tyson Foods violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protections Procedures Act. The plaintiffs state that Tyson Foods, in its advertising and marketing materials, makes false representations regarding its commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a news release there are other misleading statements made by Tyson Foods routinely such as the use of anti-parasitic drugs, injection of chicken eggs with formaldehyde, washing of Tyson products with hazardous chemical disinfectants.

Tyson Foods released the following statement in response: “We will not comment on this pending litigation, but will say we believe in transparency and have been increasingly open about our business as we’ve shown through our annual sustainability report. We’re committed to continuous improvement in everything we do. That’s how we’ve become the world’s leading producer of no-antibiotics-ever chicken, why we employ more than 2,500 food-safety professionals, implemented third-party animal welfare audits and video monitoring, have the largest team of animal welfare specialists, and have set a science-based target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030.”

Tyson recently had an accidental release of wastewater from a turkey processing plant in Zeeland, Mich., that released about 1,800 gallons of wastewater. Tyson Foods said the water was retained on-site and impacted soil was recovered and disposed of with no impact to groundwater or waterways.

That was not the case in early June when the accidental release of partially-treated wastewater poured into a Northern Alabama waterway, killing several fish throughout connected streams and tributaries of the Mulberry Fork River.

Also last month, five employees in Springdale at the Berry Street chicken processing facility were injured from a chemical spill that happened outside the plant. Crews contained the spill and set up a decontamination line to aid victims and medical personnel. The company said no contaminants were released in the air, on the ground or in groundwater. The injured workers reported skin burns and respiratory issues. In 2011, this same plant had a chlorine leak that sent 150 workers to the hospital.

Last year, Tyson settled with the U.S. Department of Justice and paid a $2 million fine for violations of the Clean Water Act involving a large spill of Alimet (used in feed) which occurred in Monett, Mo., resulting in 108,000 fish being killed in 2014. Tyson was placed on two year’s probation for the violation and agreed to pay $500,000 to remedy the harm caused by the accident.