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Court Finds Smithfield’s Food Safety Marketing Claims Might Mislead Consumers, Rules in Favor of Nonprofit

Court Denies Motion to Dismiss, holds that Organic Consumers Association’s allegations regarding antibiotic-resistant germs, carcinogenic drugs and COVID-19 outbreaks at Smithfield pork facilities may be inconsistent with Smithfield’s claims that its products and production practices are the “safest.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 15, 2020

Contact:

Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207-653-3090

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today announced that the District of Columbia Superior Court rejected Smithfield’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit OCA brought against the pork producer in May 2020 under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA).

“We are pleased that the court agrees that Smithfield, a producer of industrial factory farm pork, should be held accountable for claims the company makes about the safety of its products and production practices,” said OCA International Director Ronnie Cummins.

In its ruling, the court rejected Smithfield’s argument that no reasonable consumer would rely on the company’s claims that its products are the “safest” possible, that Smithfield is “Leading the industry on food safety.” and that its COVID-19 response “complement[s] the extensive safety measures” used by the company. The court held that such claims plausibly lead reasonable consumers to believe the products are “produced without the use of potentially carcinogenic drugs, have lower-than-average rates of Salmonella contamination, and are not contaminated with particularly dangerous disease strains.”

The ruling also affirmed that allegations that Smithfield has failed to adequately protect its workers from COVID-19 relate directly to OCA’s allegations of unsafe production practices. The ruling stated:

“Plaintiff alleges that defendant’s ‘dangerous and deceptive practices recently led to one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the United States,’ and that ‘the company intends to continue misleading consumers about its production practices.’ These statements appear to link a COVID-19 outbreak to the unsafe practices at issue in this case….”

OCA is represented in the Smithfield case by Richman Law & Policy.

Organic Consumers Association is a 501(c)(3) consumer education and grassroots lobbying organization advocating on behalf of millions of consumers for safe, healthful food and a clean environment.

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