For Immediate Release
ALDF Calls for Full Disclosure of Factory Egg Farm Conditions by FDA
Court of Appeal arguments today on suit asserting agency is concealing information affecting public safety
SAN FRANCISCO - Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the nation’s leading legal advocacy organization for animals, on its lawsuit to compel the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to produce inspection reports of factory egg farms without censoring important information about hen population and living conditions.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request in December 2011 to obtain information related to total hen population and population density at factory egg farms, which the FDA collects under the Egg Safety Rule but refuses to make public at the behest of the egg industry.
Conditions at factory farms have a direct bearing on food safety--high population density and unsanitary conditions are associated with diseases like Salmonella and bird flu--and animal welfare. The FDA redacted significant information in its FOIA response, contending that egg production information would cause competitive harm.
In 2013, a magistrate judge ordered the FDA to disclose information to ALDF regarding number of birds per cage, the first time a federal court has ordered the disclosure of records regarding factory farmed eggs. But the court denied ALDF’s request for other information regarding conditions of confinement, including total hen population.
On appeal, ALDF is arguing that the FDA did not provide sufficient evidence of competitive harm to justify redacting information about animal confinement on factory egg farms. ALDF is also arguing that the magistrate judge improperly credited the FDA’s witnesses over ALDF’s own witnesses, and that ALDF was entitled to probe the FDA’s theory of competitive harm by deposing executives in the egg industry who submitted declarations on the FDA’s behalf.
“There is no such thing as too much transparency when it comes to our food supply,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The FDA should stop protecting the interests of the egg industry above the interests of the public. The FDA works for the American public and has an obligation to ensure the safety of the food we eat.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, ALDF files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.