Aldi settles “dolphin safe” lawsuit, enters mediation in separate sustainability claims suits

An ALDI store in Maryland.

Discount supermarket chain ALDI has settled a class-action lawsuit arguing “dolphin safe” claims made on some of its tuna products equated to false advertising.

The settlement, submitted for approval on 23 August, ends a case that alleged ALDI advertised some of its tuna as “dolphin safe,” even though some of the fisheries from which the chain sources its products use methods that endanger dolphins.

Additionally, the complaint filed in August 2022 by Elizabeth Henriquez, who bought canned tuna from ALDI in the U.S. state of California, alleged the Germany-based chain, which has its U.S. headquarters in Batavia, Illinois, U.S.A., did not implement a publicly accessible tracing program consumers could use to verify the sources of its tuna, unlike its competitors.

ALDI had sought to dismiss the case, arguing regulation of the “dolphin safe” logo and other sustainability claims are the responsibility of the U.S. federal government and that the retailer had adhered at all times with regulations governing its marketing claims.

But, U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton rejected ALDI's request, ruling Henriquez was seeking to have ALDI adhere to the requirements of the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act and that she made no other claims under federal law. As ALDI had promised in marketing materials to adhere to the protections awarded to dolphins under the act, Staton said the lawsuit did not concern federal law but rather stood on the merits of Henriquez’s allegations of false advertising.

ALDI also asked for dismissal of the case based on the grounds that Henriquez had no proof dolphins were actually harmed in the manufacture of the tuna she purchased. In response to the second request for dismissal, Staton ruled Henriquez's lawsuit pertained to her having paid for a product that ALDI misrepresented, rather than one resulting in actual harm to dolphins.

In April 2023, Staton referred the case to mediation through March 2024. An initial mediation session on 28 June did not result in an agreement.

Dolphin-safe labeling has resulted in litigation for a number of brands that have employed it, including Costco, the so-called “Big Three” U.S. canned tuna firms – StarKist, Chicken of the Sea, and Bumble Bee – and the Mexican government.

ALDI is currently negotiating settlements in two other lawsuits related to its claims regarding the sustainability of the seafood it sells.

One suit, filed in January 2021 by Toxin Free USA, since renamed as GMO Free USA, claims that Aldi sources its salmon from industrial fish farms in Chile that use unsustainable and environmentally destructive practices, including the use of toxic chemicals. The next mediation session in the case is scheduled for 18 June 2024.

The second suit, alleging the retailer made deceptive sustainability claims in its marketing of fresh Atlantic salmon products as being "Simple. Sustainable. Seafood” despite being sourced, at least in part, from Chile, which has an “avoid” recommendation from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch sustainability ratings system, is on hold pending negotiations between ALDI and the plaintiff, Jessica Rawson.

A mediation session between the two parties took place 8 August 2023, and talks are scheduled to continue 5 September 2023.

“The parties have made continued progress toward resolving [the] remaining two issues,” according to an 8 August filing in the case.

ALDI is also facing a USD 10 million (EUR 9.2 million) lawsuit for allegedly mislabeling its own fruit and grain bars as “naturally flavored,” according to Supermarket News.

Photo courtesy of Jeramey Lende/Shutterstock


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