STUTTGART – Three Arkansas rice producers recently filed suit against five poultry companies and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, alleging that arsenic found in rice came from poultry litter used as fertilizer by the farmers.
The lawsuit names as defendants: Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. Simmons Foods Inc., Peterson Farms Inc., George’s Farms Inc. and its subsidiaries and Alpharma LLC. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status for their lawsuit. (Peterson Farms was bought by Simmons Foods two years ago.)
The filing alleges that Pfizer manufactured feed additives containing arsenic which made their way into chicken feed. The suit states the arsenic contained in chicken litter was then sold to rice farmers as fertilizer. The suit claims the litter contaminated the soil and subsequent rice crops.
"We’re still reviewing the lawsuit, but will say it appears to be an example of creative lawyers trying to use frivolous litigation to extract money from companies that have done nothing wrong. We will vigorously defend ourselves. None of our chickens are given feed additives containing arsenic," said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson.
The lawsuit states the defendants knew that excessive arsenic in chicken litter used as fertilizer on many rice farms in Arkansas would contaminate the entire US rice crop and infiltrate the general US rice supply.