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Sorry, Charlie: County Tuna-Packers Hit With Penalties, Injunction in DA Deal

Bumble Bee Foods and Tri-Union Seafoods are accused of underfilling cans.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on 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.

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.

As part of the deal—because it would not be feasible to identify those consumers who bought underfilled cans—the companies were ordered to provide $300,000 in canned tuna within 120 days to be distributed to food banks in California.

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.

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.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

Jay Berman August 05, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Government entities in this once golden state will yank on anything if they can extort money ... in this case 3 counties got a million a piece ... extortion ... If I buy tuna and it seems a bit light on a few occassions, I'll use another brand .. let the free market fix problems like this .. government employees just trying to justify their jobs ...
Jay Berman August 05, 2012 at 02:49 AM
The entire tuna fleet left San Diego in the 80's ... it was a huge fleet, a lot of economic activity ... maintaining the boats, processing the tuna ... all offshore now ... regulated out of the country ..
Dennis Hull August 05, 2012 at 08:42 AM
I also use a lot of tuna (for 50 years now) and have noticed over the years that not only has the net weight of the cans been reduced (from 7 to 6 to 5 Oz,) but also the amount of tuna versus the liquid has declined. I salute the county for keeping "Big Tuna" (Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea, and Starkist) honest. It almost seems like collusion by the three tuna giants...
Jay Berman August 05, 2012 at 05:18 PM
In defense of "big tuna" ... the price has remained pretty stable .. considering inflation, fuel costs and such .. so something has to change ... if they want to keep the price point where it is and has been, the quantity has to come down .. its up to the consumer to chose the product they want ... I prefer the small cans ... I like the Kroger store brand at Food for Less ... more solid than Starkist ... better quality for a bit less ...
Jay Berman August 05, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Consider this, a pound of fresh tuna is about 10 bucks .. or 63 cents an ounce ... that makes a 5 ounce can $ 3.13 but you can buy it for less than a buck ... granted, the tuna cost is much lower than retail, but it is still an excellent value ..

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