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Tyson told to stop winging it in ads

Tyson chicken package

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KAI RYSSDAL: There was a bump in commodity prices today. Oil took a step up. Food commodities did too. But the food story of the day comes courtesy of the federal judiciary. A Federal Appeals court says Tyson Foods...the country's biggest chicken company...needs to find a new way to hawk its birds. The court's given Tyson two weeks to put the brakes on a multi-million dollar ad campaign Marketplace's Lisa Napoli has the details.


LISA NAPOLI: Tyson's antibiotic-free chicken was a huge success. The company sold an extra 70 million pounds of bird. The trouble is the advertising claims that the birds were drug-free weren't true.

CRAIG WINTERS: It's just a little bit playing loose and free with the truth there, I would say.

That's truth-in-labeling advocate Craig Winters. He says Tyson's advertising campaign glossed over what was spelled out on the product's labels -- that the chickens were actually given a form of antibiotics.

WINTERS: It happens all the time in modern marketing. You have to be careful, you have to ask a lot of questions and not necessarily assume things.

Tyson's competitors asked a lot of questions last year when they saw the company's claims. Perdue and Sanderson Farms went to court to stop Tyson from marketing its chickens as healthier.

John Stauber of PR Watch says Uncle Sam needs to do a better job of holding companies' feet to the fire:

John Stauber: That's why we have to have government regulation and regulation that's enforced. Because clearly even getting caught isn't shaming these companies into being honest in their advertising and labeling.

Tyson says it's disappointed with the court's decision. Even though it admitted during trial to using various antibiotics, the company says it believes it has acted responsibly and intends to stand its ground.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napolil for Marketplace.

About the author

In more then twenty years in journalism, Lisa Napoli has managed to work for almost every major

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