Activists Can Learn More About Egg Farming
(CN) - In disclosing its records on egg production facilities in Texas, the Food and Drug Administration improperly redacted the number of birds per cage, a federal judge ruled.
The Animal Defense Fund had demanded the records in an April 2011 request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that sought all documents and recorded communications between the FDA and government agencies relating to egg production or production facilities in Texas.
Regulators produced a total of 398 pages of documents in response to the request in March 2012, representing related Establishment Inspection Reports on over a dozen egg production facilities. The documents included 277 pages of redactions made under exemption 4 of the FOIA, which pertains to confidential commercial information.
The activist group appealed those redactions to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but filed a lawsuit before it could receive a response.
Both parties moved for summary judgment, and Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte have each side some relief last week.
"Defendant has shown that release of the entirety of the redacted information would support underbidding or undercutting that would be likely to cause substantial competitive harm," Laporte wrote. "For example, the court noted that releasing the number of birds per cage alone would not appear to threaten any competitive harm. Defendant did not raise any persuasive argument to support withholding that limited portion of the redacted information, and no one has suggested how that information would allow an accurate estimate of total egg production or reveal enough about how to improve production to likely harm competition at all, much less substantially. Therefore, although most of the information was properly withheld under exemption 4, the court finds that public disclosure of the number of birds per cage would not likely cause substantial competitive harm."
The court found, however, that the number of birds per cage was improperly redacted since this information "by itself would not likely cause substantial competitive harm."