Monday marked the filing of an opposition brief by Food & Water Watch (FWW) in its ongoing litigation against Smithfield Foods over the company’s purported lies about meat shortage and worker safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
FWW’s initial suit against Smithfield was met with a motion to dismiss, which FWW countered with its opposition . The suit alleges that Smithfield, who is the largest pork processing company in the world, jeopardized the safety and well-being of its workers and lied to consumers in an effort to increase its profits.
Last month’s congressional report revealed that meatpacking giants including the defendant played a role in “inciting panic about the national meat supply and endangering workers in the process.” The report reveals that Smithfield allegedly lied about supply shortages and lobbied the federal government to keep factories running with limited safety protocols as a method of saving money and increasing profit.
An announcement by Food & Water Watch argues that despite the information in the congressional report, “Smithfield continues to promote misleading information about how it protected its workers earlier in the pandemic.”
Smithfield’s motion to dismiss asserted that its statements regarding meat shortages were not uncommon, as government agencies and the Trump administration had made similar statements about supply shortages. However, FWW contends that all of the statements made by government officials can be traced back to meat industry lobbyists, including the CEO of Smithfield, Ken Sullivan.
Emily Miller, an attorney at FWW, explained that “as confirmed by Congress, while Smithfield was telling the public it was doing ‘everything in its power’ to protect its workers, the company was actually cutting backroom deals with federal regulators so that it did not have to implement life-saving safety precautions at its plants.”
Public Justice Budd Attorney Ellen Noble added that Smithfield had “fabricated a controversy and panic” for its own gain.
FWW’s opposition to Smithfield’s motion to dismiss asserts its standing in seeking both injunctive relief and damages, that it has plausibly alleged Smithfield’s violation of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act, and that the First Amendment does not protect its false and misleading statements as the statements are commercial speech.