andrew schneider investigates

February 12, 2008

Coloring in farmed salmon may get its day in court

Filed under: Food additives,Food Safety,Salmon — Andrew Schneider @ 10:22

The off again, on again, suit against supermarkets for failing to tell consumers that the chemicals have been added to the farm raised salmon, will finally get its day in court, at least in California.

That state’s Supreme Court ruling on Feb. 11 will permit private citizens to sue over artificially colored salmon that is mislabeled or unlabeled or otherwise fails to warn shoppers that chemicals have been added to the fish.

Farmed salmon, which are naturally gray in color, take on the healthy orange coloring of wild salmon because fish farmers feed them the chemicals canthaxanthin and astaxanthin. Consumer groups aren’t saying the coloring additives are harmful, but that shoppers should be told that chemicals have been added to the food they’re buying.

“This ruling represents a significant win for consumers,” Kevin Golden, a lawyer for Center for Food Safety, a national public interest group, told the P-I. “It increases accountability in the food industry . . . and empowers individual consumers to demand accurate and honest labeling on the food they feed their families.”

Golden said while the California action is binding only under California law, it could be a useful tool to consumer groups in other states that wanted to strengthen local labeling laws.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that consumer lawsuits filed in 2003 and 2004 accused supermarket chains of misleading customers. Lower courts combined the cases and dismissed them, saying federal law barred states from allowing private suits over food labeling, but the state’s high court unanimously disagreed and reinstated the claims.

Those lower courts said that food labeling is regulated by federal law and that only the government, not private citizens, can sue for violations. Neither the federal government nor the state has acted in this case to enforce a federal law that requires disclosure of artificial food coloring.

In 2003. a similar suit was filed in Seattle, and some of the country’s largest supermarket chains agreed to label their farm-raised salmon as being artificially colored. However, a check of the fish mongers in Pike Place Market found farm-raised salmon being sold without notices of artificial coloring. One vendor was at least tagging some of his fish as being farm raised.

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1 Comment »

  1. If you ever want to read a reader’s feedback :) , I rate this post for four from five. Decent info, but I just have to go to that damn google to find the missed bits. Thank you, anyway!

    Comment by Samuel L. — April 21, 2009 @ 22:52 | Reply


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