U.S. Supreme Court Permits Salmon-Labeling Suit to Proceed


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
January 15, 2009

 The U.S. Supreme Court this week rejected an appeal by leading national supermarket chains to stop a consumer lawsuit accusing the retailers of violating federal food-labeling rules.

The lawsuit contends that the retailers — including Supervalu, Safeway and Kroger — failed to disclose that the farmed salmon they sold contained artificial coloring. The companies argued that only government regulators can enforce federal and state labeling laws, not consumers.

The consumer suit was originally filed in 2005 by Jennifer Kanter of California.

At issue is the use of astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, two nutrients used in farmed salmon feed that give the fish a pink-orange hue that consumers are familiar with; otherwise, the flesh would be gray and unappealing, yet still safe to consume. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows the use of astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, but such products must be labeled as “artificially colored.”

In rejecting the appeal without comment Monday, the Supreme Court justices chose not to overturn a California Supreme Court ruling allowing the suit. The supermarkets said the California court ruling is “an open invitation to private plaintiffs nationwide to bring class actions” and will “wreck Congress’s exclusive government enforcement scheme and all its built-in advantages.”  

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