| SAN DIEGO
SAN DIEGO Aug 3 Three of the largest U.S.
sellers of canned tuna have agreed to pay $3.3 million
c o llectively to settle civil claims brought by three California
counties over complaints the companies put less fish in their
cans than represented on their labels.
StarKist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee brands of canned
tuna contained more liquid and less tuna than stated on their
cans, according to a lawsuit and settlement both filed Thursday
by district attorneys for Marin, Riverside and San Diego
The companies cooperated fully in an investigation stemming
from the complaint and in reaching the settlement, the
prosecutors said. The inquiry into complaints of tuna
under-filling began in 2010, San Diego County Deputy District
Attorney Gina Darvas said.
"The California Department of Food and Agriculture has a
division of measurement standards, and they look at short
weights, among other things," Darvas said. "Someone had an
anecdotal feeling there was less tuna in cans, and they looked
The shortages were found in tuna packed in vegetable broth ,
prosecutors said. No liability was admitted by the tuna canners
in the settlement.
"It's not necessarily intentional," Darvas said. "They get a
little sloppy on keeping up with calibrating their weighing
equipment, and we occasionally have to provide an incentive that
they play by the rules."
Calls for comment to StarKist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumble
Bee were not immediately returned on Friday.
The National Fisheries Institute, whose membership includes
the three tuna canners, said the problem is the weighing
standard used by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
"The dispute centered around the FDA's 55-year-old pressed
weight standard. Rather than litigate against an outdated
standard, the companies will continue their own efforts with FDA
towards establishing a more modern, consistent and reliable
standard of measurement that can be easily understood and
verified by consumers," the group said in a written statement.
The settlement includes $969,500 to be paid to each county's
consumer protection division, $300,000 worth of canned tuna to
be donated to California Food Banks, plus investigation costs,
"It would be impossible to identify and compensate everyone
who has purchased the cans of tuna that were light," Darvas
said, noting that tuna is a staple in most households. "So we
found a good alternative that we are very pleased with."
(Editing by Steve Gorman, Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)