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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE December 18, 2002

Doctors Sue Tyson over Ads Claiming Chicken Is Heart-Healthy and “Natural”

Latest Attack on “Big Food” Includes Opposing Ad Campaign

WASHINGTON and SAN FRANCISCO—The nonprofit health and research group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is filing a lawsuit today charging Tyson Foods with misleading consumers by claiming its chicken products are “all natural” and heart-healthy. Tyson Foods, based in Arkansas, is the largest producer of poultry products in the United States. The case is being filed in San Francisco, California.

Natural Born Killers

“It’s time for Tyson to stop pretending that chicken is a health food,” says PCRM president and nutrition researcher Neal D. Barnard, M.D. “Americans are eating one million chickens per hour, but the truth is that chicken has nearly the same high concentrations of cholesterol and saturated fat as beef. In fact, chicken consumption is a major contributor to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.”

The latest attack on “Big Food” comes just days after Consumer Reports announced that nearly half of all chicken it recently tested was contaminated with campylobacter, a potentially deadly bacterium, 90 percent of which was antibiotic-resistant. Many government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, recognize that the widespread use of antibiotics in factory farming has contributed to the developing problem of antibiotic resistance.

PCRM is charging Tyson with using deceptive advertising practices in two of the company’s campaigns. One set of ads claims that Tyson chicken products are “all natural,” despite the vast quantities of antibiotics used and the high percentage of products likely to be contaminated with foodborne pathogens resistant to antibiotic treatment. The other campaign advises the consumer to “serve chicken as often as you like” as a way to protect one’s health, in spite of scientific evidence that poultry consumption is not heart-healthy. Even the conservative American Heart Association—from which Tyson has purchased an endorsement for some of its products—does not recommend that chicken be consumed without limit.

“We want Tyson, as well as other beef and chicken producers, to stop deceiving consumers concerned about their health,” explains PCRM staff attorney Jay Ukryn. “Given the serious problems of obesity and heart disease in this country, it’s time ‘Big Food’ stopped telling Big Lies about its products.”

To counter Tyson’s misinformation, PCRM is launching a provocative counter-ad campaign in USA Today this week. The ad titled “Natural Born Killers?” features a photograph of a gang of small chickens and text detailing Tyson’s false claims.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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