SAN FRANCISCO – Federal judge Richard Seeborg, US District Court for the Northern District of California, dismissed a lawsuit accusing Laurel, Mississippi-based Sanderson Farms of using false and misleading advertising to market the production claims of the company’s chickens.

In 2017, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Friends of Earth (FOE) sued Sanderson alleging the company’s advertisements, stating its chicken products are “100% Natural,” are false and misleading when the meat contains residues of chemicals and synthetic drugs. 

The court previously dismissed the lawsuit twice. A third attempt was successful in December 2018.

Both groups also claimed that they “suffered injury” when they spent money on an advertising campaign to refute Sanderson’s “100% Natural” claim. Seeborg later wrote that neither group had standing for this to hold up in court.  

In fact, in a deposition, CFS and FOE conceded that there was no diversion of money or resources that were in reaction to Sanderson’s advertisements prior to the lawsuits being filed. 

“Discovery has shown that plaintiffs’ activities after Aug. 1, 2016 and prior to filing the complaint were not a reaction to Sanderson’s advertising,” the recent decision said. “Instead, they were continuations of non-Sanderson-specific initiatives plaintiffs were undertaking in furtherance of their missions to address antibiotic use generally. Moreover, many of plaintiffs’ cited activities neither referenced Sanderson nor its advertising. Finally, activities not required by Sanderson’s advertising cannot establish standing.”

The ruling came after Sanderson discontinued the use of antibiotics considered medically important for humans for disease prevention in its live poultry operations on March 1, 2019. The decision was based on the findings of an advisory board commissioned by Sanderson to examine and report on the company’s use of antibiotics in poultry production.

The advisory board concluded that a production system “…where non-medically important antibiotics… can be used for prevention, and medically important antibiotics can be used for treatment and control of disease, could represent a responsible compromise to better preserve efficacy of antibiotics important for human health.”