SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court recently rejected a
lawsuit that would have required labels on egg cartons to indicate
the type of housing the chickens were raised in.
According to an Associated Press report,
three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that
federal agencies were reasonable in rejecting the labeling
regulations. The ruling
was filed Feb. 27.
“The FDA has not defined the terms 'cage-free,' 'free range,'
'free roaming.' However, such label statements must be truthful and
not misleading under section 403(a)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and
Cosmetic Act,” Deborah Kotz, spokesperson for the Food and Drug
Administration, told the Northern California Record.
Plaintiffs in the case
included animal-rights groups Compassion Over Killing and the Animal
Legal Defense Fund. They brought the lawsuit against the FDA,
Agriculture Marketing Service and Food Safety and Inspection Service.
“The court’s decision leaves the public in the dark regarding
the cruel confinement of egg-laying hens, and consumers at the mercy
of dishonest egg marketers,” Kelsey Eberly, attorney for the Animal
League Defense Fund, told the Northern California Record.
“Without uniform disclosures on egg cartons to indicate whether
hens are kept in cages, companies that use battery cages may mislead
consumers into believing they provide egg-laying hens humane living
conditions, with specious marketing claims like 'animal friendly' or
'natural,' or with imagery of happy hens frolicking in green fields.
“Failure to disclose the caging of egg-laying hens also prevents
consumers from making safer food choices; eggs from battery-cage
facilities have been found to carry a higher risk of being
contaminated with salmonella versus eggs from cage-free or free range
When the judges ruled in favor of the federal agencies, the
included an FDA explanation that “consumer interest in the hens’
living conditions, alone, is insufficient to establish that
egg-production methods are a material fact that would permit the FDA
to issue the requested regulations.”
Eberly expressed disappointment in the ruling and cited the
importance of egg labeling for consumers.
“Battery cages cause immense animal suffering due to the cramped
and unsanitary conditions they provide egg-laying hens, with birds
stacked row upon row in barren wire cages, at the mercy of aggressive
cage-mates and vulnerable to sickness and premature death,” Eberly
said. “Such environments also put consumer health at risk through
increased risk of food-borne illness. Truthful labels on egg cartons
empower consumers to choose safer, more humane eggs.
“The Animal Legal Defense Fund is staunchly committed to truth
in egg labeling, and will continue to police the market to ensure
that factory farm producers are held accountable for hoodwinking
consumers with false 'humane' claims.”