Egg Salmonella Outbreak and Food Labelling

Date: September 2, 2010
Posted In: DLP Law

In light of the recent salmonella outbreak involving tainted eggs, questions have been posed with respect to food product safety and regulation. Labeling products as “organic” and “free range” has also called to question what exactly is required to allow products to meet these classifications. The USDA defines “free range” or “free roaming” poultry by indicating “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside” Just what does that mean? The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requires that chickens raised for their meat have ACCESS to the outside in order to receive the “free range” certification. However, there is no requirement for access to pasture or green spaces. So poultry can have “free range” certification but have access to only dirt or gravel .
Surprisingly, free range chicken eggs have no legal definition in the United States. As a result free range chicken egg producers have no common standard for what the term “free range” actually means. So egg farmers can sell their eggs as “free range” simply because their cages are two or three inches above average size, or because there is a window in the shed where the chickens are raised.

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.