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Lawsuits Over 'Misleading' Food Labels Surge As Groups Cite Lax U.S. Oversight

A flurry of litigation by advocacy groups seeks to combat what they say is a rise in deceptive marketing by food giants.

Shoppers drawn to sustainable, humanely raised meat and dairy products could be forgiven for thinking the nation’s big food companies have turned away from the industrial farming practices that have long dominated American agriculture.

Consider the package labels and marketing claims for some of the country’s best known brands: Cargill turkeys are sourced from “independent family farmers,” Sargento cheeses contain “no antibiotics” and Tyson uses “humane and environmentally responsible production” to raise its chickens while providing workers “a safe work environment.”

But some claims may not be what they seem, according to a flurry of litigation by advocacy groups seeking to combat what they describe as a surge in deceptive marketing by food giants. The misleading labels, the plaintiffs say, seek to profit off consumers’ growing interest in clean eating, animal welfare and environmentally friendly agriculture — but without making meaningful changes to their farming and production practices.