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Class-action suits filed against Safeway, Albertson's and Kroger over farmed salmon colorant.


23rd April 2003

Seattle (WA), USA: Class-action lawsuits to be filed Wednesday in Seattle claim that the three largest grocery chains in the United States -- Safeway, Albertsons and The Kroger Company -- illegally concealed from consumers the fact that artificial coloring is used to color farm-raised salmon sold in their stores.

Click here to read important documents related to the case.

Without this artificial coloring -- astaxanthin or canthaxanthin -- farmed-salmon fillets would not display the orange-pink color of salmon.

The lawsuits charge that the chains, which account for over 6,000 stores in more than 30 states across the United States, deceived consumers by failing to comply with federal law requiring disclosure of artificial coloring in farm-raised salmon.

Current FDA regulations stipulate clearly that any fish product containing food colorants must be labelled prominently for the purchaser to view, though the law is rarely enforced.

According to the suits' claims, lack of labelling also misleads the public into thinking they're buying wild salmon, avoiding the problems associated with farm-raised salmon including:

Contamination from antibiotics and exposure to pesticides and other chemicals;

Misrepresentation of health benefits - according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmed Atlantic salmon is over 200 percent higher in saturated fat than wild pink or chum salmon;

Risks to wild salmon and other aquatic species from disease and parasites like sea lice, which escape from farm pens

Impacts on marine ecosystems in British Columbia from fish farm pollution.

The claims are being brought by Smith & Lowney, PLLC, a law firm specializing in public interest consumer law.

The named representatives in the class action suits are consumers who purchased farm-raised salmon from the chains and were not made aware of the presence of artificial colorants.

According to a press statement announcing the suit, the lawsuits are designed to protect millions of consumers who purchase farm-raised salmon from the three chains, and call for:

Damages for consumers, expected to exceed tens of millions of dollars for each chain;

A court order requiring the chains to inform consumers that the salmon are artificially colored;

Civil penalties for violation of various consumer protection statutes

Jennifer Lash, a spokesperson for the British Columbia-based Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR), a group that has been running a consumer education initiative on farmed salmon in Canada and the United States, said if the suit deters U.S. consumers from purchasing farmed salmon, it could have a huge economic impact on the industry based in Canada. In BC alone, 80 percent of farmed salmon is exported.

"The U.S. is an enormous market for farmed salmon and the stores named sell salmon farmed in BC and the east coast of Canada," said Lash. "U.S. consumers are not getting the full story when it comes to how it is raised and produced. We see this suit as an important step in consumer health protection as well as a wake-up call to industry."