Smithfield Accused of Falsifying Information About Potential COVID-19 Meat Shortage

Smithfield Foods Inc. filed a notice that it was removing a lawsuit against it to the District of Columbia District Court on Friday.  The allegations against Smithfield, initiated by Food & Water Watch, included that the company violated consumer protection laws when it made misleading statements about the meat supply chain at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the notice of removal, the lawsuit was initially filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on June 16. It included allegations that the meatpacking company made representation that a “countrywide meat shortage was imminent” with the purpose of inducing higher demand, more sales, and justification for keeping its factories operating. Additionally, the Food and Water Watch claimed that the plaintiff misrepresented worker safety conditions to promote its own company.  

The plaintiff, a non-profit organization, claimed it was harmed from the actions because it invested time and resources into investigating the claims and informing its members about meat shortage and Smithfield’s COVID-19 employee policies and practices.  Reportedly, the defendant’s false claims are still on the internet requiring Food & Water Watch to continue to put resources into addressing them. Food and Water Watch alleged that Smithfield violated nine counts related to the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act through its false statements. 

Smithfield argued that the federal court would be a better venue to address the claims.  It explained that there is a diversity between the parties and the value of relief sought by the plaintiff is above the required threshold.

The statements at issue include at least 20 related to potential meat shortages, about which Smithfield said there is no ongoing risk requiring injunctive relief because consumers are not currently making purchasing decisions about past allegations that the meat supply could be compromised. 

The defendant also said that the plaintiff “does not and cannot allege that Smithfield’s current worker safety practices, let alone the messaging associated with such safety practices, are inadequate.” Smithfield claimed that corrective advertising would be costly and would only benefit the plaintiff. 

Smithfield is represented by Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. The plaintiff is represented by its own lawyers, Public Justice PC, Berger Montague PC, and Towards Justice