Tyson Foods Targeted in FTC Complaint Over Advertising

At a time when it and several other major meat-packers are facing multiple types of government scrutiny, Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) may face yet another line of inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), this time over claims of false advertising. A pair of organizations, Venceremos (a poultry workers' group) and Food & Water Watch, have filed an FTC complaint asserting that Tyson ads contain two pieces of bogus information.

The advocacy groups claim Tyson's phrase "safe working environment" is a false and misleading statement. The complaint says contrary "to its advertising and marketing, Tyson does not provide a 'safe work environment' for its employees," citing a 2011 chlorine gas leak; ammonia spills or leaks in 2014, 2016, and 2019, and other incidents.

The FTC building.

The FTC building. Image source: Getty Images

The complaint also alleges 25 Tyson employees have died from the novel coronavirus. And it says 8,500 workers have tested positive for COVID-19, allegedly "an infection count more than double that of any other meatpacker." Tyson Foods has recently moved ahead with automation as one way of lessening infections. 

The FTC complaint also challenges Tyson ads saying its poultry is sourced from "independent family farms." The two organizations assert "the company relies almost exclusively on industrialized factory-style operations for the production of its chicken products" and that it "pushed the limits of their contract with independent poultry growers by bullying them, causing many of them economic hardship, and even worse -- suicide."

Responding to the allegations, Tyson stated it takes its responsibility "very seriously" in protecting worker health and says it is committed to its relationship with the independent producers "helping us supply safe, affordable, high quality beef, pork and chicken to our customers." The FTC has not yet responded publicly to the complaint.

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