Settlement Reached In Tuna-Packing Lawsuit

Bumble Bee Foods, Tri-Union Seafoods, Starkist Co. To Pay $3.3M In Settlement

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis Friday announced a $3.3 million settlement of a civil consumer protection action against three tuna-packing companies over the amount of tuna in cans.

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In the settlement, Bumble Bee Foods, Tri-Union Seafoods -- doing business as Chicken of the Sea International -- and Starkist Co. agreed to an injunction to follow federal packing standards for canned tuna products. The companies also agreed to pay civil penalties, costs and other relief.

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office, along with the District Attorney's Offices from Marin and Riverside counties, opened the case based on a 2010 investigation by the California Department of Food and Agriculture into the amount of tuna in cans.

Tuna is often packed in water, oil and vegetable broth, and the amount of tuna relative to additional ingredients is controlled by a federal "standard of fill." The investigation found that the three tuna-packing companies failed to meet the required amount of tuna in cans packed with vegetable broth and added flavors.

"Our Consumer Unit is focused on making sure San Diego consumers get what they pay for," Dumanis said. "Labels help consumers make selections. In this case, our offices worked together to make sure that what is on the label is what's actually in the can."

Bumble Bee Foods and Chicken of the Sea are San Diego-based companies. Starkist is headquartered in Pittsburgh. All three companies distribute canned tuna throughout California.

Because it would not be feasible to identify those consumers who purchased under-filled cans, part of the settlement orders the companies to provide $300,000 in canned tuna within 120 days to be distributed to food banks in California.

The judgment also requires the division of costs and penalties between San Diego, Marin and Riverside counties, with each office receiving $969,500, and the payment of $86,000 in investigate costs to the CDFA Division of Measurement Standards, which played a leading role in the investigation.

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