Pork producers may have major claims to recover in pending lawsuits against vitamin manufacturers, a veterinarian and a lawyer involved in the case said during Pork Industry Forum in Orlando, FL.

The main allegations cover Jan. 1, 1990, to Dec. 31, 1999. Some single-ingredient vitamin supplements, straight bulk vitamin products and premix may be covered during a shorter time period.

"Swine producers are considered indirect purchasers of vitamin products by means of their purchases of premix, base mix and complete rations from an entity other than the manufacturer, such as a feed mill or other source," explains Steve Henry, DVM, Abilene, KS. "If we overpaid for vitamins by $1/pig, that total is very large over the 10 years covered by the allegations," he adds.

There have been many lawsuits filed since 1997, alleging a long-running international conspiracy to fix prices of certain bulk vitamins and vitamin products, says Tom Patterson, Sioux City, IA, attorney. "These lawsuits have been filed on behalf of both direct and indirect purchasers of vitamin products," he says.

Plantiffs filing indirect purchaser vitamin lawsuits in state courts reached a partial settlement Oct. 10. A Master Settlement Agreement was reached with defendants Aventis Animal Nutrition, BASF Corporation, Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc., Roche Vitamins, Takeda Chemical Industries, Caiichi Pharmaceutical Co. and Eisai Co.

"This Master Settlement Agreement, if approved by the state courts involved, will establish a claims process for indirect purchasers of vitamins, such as pork producers, to file a claim for damages they may have incurred as a result of the vitamin manufacturers’ illegal price fixing," says Patterson. "Once the settlement has been approved by the court, pork producers would have 90 days to opt out of the settlement or 120 days to remain in the settlement and file a claim," he says.

Further information on the antitrust matter is at www.pigvitamins.com. Patterson can be reached at (712) 255-8838. Another attorney in the case, Robert Hopper of Minneapolis, is available at (612) 341-0400 or log onto the Web site www.zimmreed.com.