Wednesday, October 20, 2021

2 ways you could be reimbursed for buying chicken for free

Story highlights Order a lot of chicken? There’s a chance you’ll have to pay, starting in 2019. For consumers affected by the lawsuits, it doesn’t mean the class-action lawsuits are over, as more claims could be filed. If you buy a lot of chicken — or if you paid at least $125 on its purchase price — or have a relative or friend who did, you might have to pay to settle a class-action lawsuit. Such lawsuits allege

that one or more parts of the chicken served to consumers aren’t advertised fully. In the United States, the meat industry is facing lawsuits for selling many of its products as “premium” or “salad-style” without stating that it would be consumed raw. For example, lawyers might claim that the exterior of a boneless breast of chicken could be fried or partially cooked, preventing the bird from receiving the benefits

of the USDA’s “whole-breast package” seal. Ultimately, that could mean more money for consumers. There are two ways you could get reimbursed in a class-action lawsuit. The first is, you can apply to the courts to have a judge establish a settlement. All you have to do is register on the FDA Food Safety and Inspection Service’s website. The process is relatively simple — you must provide your name, address, phone

number and full name (including Social Security number and others) to establish your identity and address. If you agree to the terms of the settlement, which can be viewed here, and there’s a fine print that you acknowledge, you’ll have up to 18 months to file your claim, but you have the option to file a claim right away if you want your money right away. The other way is to request that the government ask the

companies that made the chicken to pay out any money it thinks you should get. “First, the government will investigate those claims. If the government determines that a brand or supplier misrepresented the product sold to consumers, it will ask the product to be removed from the market (with an abatement period of three years),” Morgan Doherty, a CNN legal analyst, says. “Second, if a product is removed from the

market and no such claims have been made, then the government will issue a monetary penalty if it determines the defendant violated the law.” The same websites and the same process are for all three types of money: government investigations, proposed settlements or monetary penalties. (In past years, the government has sent letters to chicken companies that held poultry in their own consignments to our supermarkets

to ask them to release those commodities for government inspection.) In the case of a government investigation, this could have to do with identifying who sold the products without properly disclosing the verbiage of the USDA’s symbol, according to Doherty. As an example, one version of fresh chicken would include an image of the USDA inspection seal and another version could be labeled the “whole-breast package.” So

the government is looking into labeling the products differently so consumers can more easily identify the brands. If they find something egregious, they could institute a settlement or payment to those affected. “One interesting part of some past settlements that have been done is for the government to look into the amount of benefits the labeling of the product had on the consumer’s enjoyment of the product,”

Doherty says. “So, for instance, if the brand had a higher value of benefits attached to the label, the government is allowed to require that brand to give some of that back.” In the case of potential consumer claims, Doherty says, it’s possible that the government will limit how much money consumers can get, based on the case in front of it. It might simply say that no more than $500 can be given as a payment per

class member for a given brand. Let’s not forget that there could be a third way — you could simply call your local company or contact them directly and voice your concerns. That’s actually a great idea, but there’s one small caveat: If there’s more than one brand involved in a lawsuit, all of them will have to handle the matter differently, so you may have to wait until all the claims are through. It’s also

important to note that it’s not only chicken. Foods that contain meat, such as eggs, could be in the complaint. Any meat or poultry are good choices to avoid and if you’re concerned, it’s a good idea to purchase whole pieces of chicken.

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