Sara Lee Corporation, the makers of Ball Park beef hot dogs, charged in court today that Oscar Mayer hot dogs are being falsely advertised in violation of federal and state law. The suit primarily focuses on claims in a series of advertisements that expressly compares Oscar Mayer Jumbo Beef Franks with Ball Park branded franks.

The suit claims Oscar Mayer is presenting a taste superiority claim against the entire line of Ball Park branded hot dogs that is both false and misleading to consumers. Such claims contain an unclear and inconspicuous footnote in very small type that also falsely implies that more than one variety of Ball Park franks was tested, the Sara Lee Corporation pleading charged.

“This is a weak attempt by Oscar Mayer to mislead millions of consumers with false and inaccurate claims,” said Chuck Hemmingway, brand director, Ball Park brand. “Simply put, we believe that these untrue statements are all a bunch of bologna.”

Ball Park is pointing to IRI data that shows, over the last year, the Ball Park beef hot dog line has experienced double digit growth of 14.2 percent while the Oscar Mayer total beef hot dog line has experienced a volume decline of 1.1 percent. “We’re the nation’s beef hot dog leader. Millions of Americans have voted Ball Park with their wallets and their taste buds and we’re not going to stand by and allow these consumers to be misled,” added Hemmingway.

In a statement to, Syd Lindner, associate director, Corporate Affairs at Kraft Foods, said, "Clearly, Ball Park does wish it was an Oscar Mayer wiener, since we are America's favorite hot dog brand. In fact, we sell more hot dogs than any other brand. We stand by our reputation for accurate advertising to our consumers. Since we haven't yet received the lawsuit, we have no further comment." 

Source: Sara Lee Corp., Kraft Foods

Valley Meats announces recall

Valley Meats LLC, a Coal Valley, Ill., establishment is recalling approximately 95,898 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated withE. coliO157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced. The products include ground beef, hamburger patties and other ground beef products under the3S,Grillmaster,J & B,Klub,Thick ‘N  SavoryandUltimatebrands, as well as some product with no specified brand name.

Each product bears the establishment number “EST. 5712” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These ground beef products were produced on March 10, 2009, and were distributed to various consignees nationwide. The problem was discovered through an epidemiological investigation of illnesses. On May 13, 2009, FSIS was informed by the Ohio Department of Health of a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 infections. Illnesses have been reported in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Source: Food Safety & Inspection Service

Hormel Foods announces increased earnings in Q2 results

Hormel Foods reported fiscal 2009 second quarter net earnings of $80.4 million, up 4 percent from earnings of $77.6 million a year earlier. Diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $.59 this year compared to $.56 per share last year and sales totaled $1.6 billion, even with fiscal 2008. For the six months ended April 26, 2009, net earnings were $161.8 million, or $1.20 per diluted share, the latter of which was even with last year. Sales totaled $3.3 billion, up 2 percent, from $3.2 billion in the same period last year.

The company’s Jennie-O Turkey store saw operating profit increase 42 percent, while volume dropped 4 percent and dollar sales dropped 1 percent. Grocery Products saw increases in operating profit (5 percent), volume (2 percent) and dollar sales (4 percent). Specialty Foods had its operating profit drop by 1 percent, volume drop 7 percent (11 percent excluding acquisitions) and dollar sales drop 5 percent (8 percent excluding acquisitions).

“Our Grocery Products segment again delivered increases in sales and segment profit, with strong sales of canned meats and Mexican products. Our Jennie-O Turkey Store segment continues to rebound, despite difficult market conditions, as they were faced with even lower commodity meat prices than in the first quarter,” said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer.

“Our Refrigerated Foods segment experienced another difficult quarter, as continued weak cut-out margins led to losses in our pork operations. The overall weakness in this segment masked a very strong performance by our Meat Products group, which achieved high single-digit sales increases of its branded portfolio of products. Our Specialty Foods segment was essentially flat, while our All Other segment had weaker results,” remarked Ettinger.

“We have seen a continuation of some of the same trends we saw in the first quarter, as consumers seek value in retail channels while foodservice sales remain soft. Unlike the first quarter, however, we have seen improvement in sales of some of our convenience items, including our refrigerated entrees and our Compleats microwave meals,” commented Ettinger.

Source: Hormel Foods

Australia seeks talks with European Union over beef tariffs

Australia is seeking urgent talks with the European Union over a new tariff quota on beef imports to ensure that Australian producers won’t be affected. The quota stems from the possible settlement between the EU and the United States over hormone-fed beef, Reuters reports.

"We are keen to ensure the tariff quota is not discriminatory in its treatment of beef exporters and provides equal opportunities for access for Australian beef exporters," Australia's Trade Minister Simon Crean and Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said in a joint statement. They added that the tariff quota must be consistent with World Trade Organization rules and be available to all suppliers on a non-discriminatory basis. The duty-free tariff is currently 11,500 tons, to be raised to 31,500 tons during the next three years.

Source: Reuters