In a statement from the company, Tyson also asked the USDA to consider initiating a public process to bring more clarity and consistency to labeling and advertising rules involving antibiotic-related product claims and all raising claims in general.
"We still support the idea of marketing chicken raised without antibiotics because we know it's what most consumers want," said Dave Hogberg, senior vice president of consumer products. "However, in order to preserve the integrity of our label and our reputation as a premier company in the food industry, we believe there needs to be more specific labeling and advertising protocols developed to ensure the rules are clear and application of the rules is equitable."
In May 2007, the USDA approved Tyson's Raised Without Antibiotic chicken label application, which noted Tyson's chicken feed ingredients include commonly-used antimicrobials known as ionophores, the company said. By fall, USDA officials had reversed their position, saying they made a mistake, since some organizations have narrowly classified ionophores as antibiotics, though they are not used in human medicine. In December 2007, the USDA approved a new label and subsequently issued industry guidelines for the claim "Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics That Impact Antibiotic Resistance in Humans."
Two other poultry producers had filed suit to stop Tyson from using the labels late last year, alleging the labels were misleading and created an unfair advantage to Tyson.