FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS have initiated a criminal investigation into price-fixing in the US poultry industry.

Federal lawyers asked a judge hearing a civil case against some of America’s largest poultry producers to halt proceedings while they conduct their own investigations.

The process could take up to six months, reports suggest.

Civil suits and allegations of collusion have circulated for years, but this marks the first time that a grand jury investigation has taken place.

It is potentially significant as criminal charges could follow, if enough evidence is found to bring a case.

The filing itself does not guarantee that the government is going to bring charges, but it does suggest that the government is strongly considering them, said Peter C. Carstensen, an antitrust expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Law School told the New York Times.