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Lawsuit Can Proceed Over Color of Grocery Store Salmon

The California Supreme Court reversed a decision by the Court of Appeals allowing a class action lawsuit to proceed over disclosure of chemically color enhanced salmon sold in many California grocery stores. Named in the lawsuit are Albertson’s Inc., Safeway Inc., The Kroger Co., Trader Joe’s, Costco Wholesale Corp., Whole Foods Market Inc., Bristol Farms Inc., Ocean Beauty Seafoods Inc., and various subsidiaries.

930548_salmon_filets.jpgPlaintiffs in Los Angeles, Alameda and Monterey counties consolidated lawsuits in 2004 claiming that the named stores sold fish with chemical additives canthaxanthin and astaxanthin. The additives allegedly changed the grayish color of farm raised salmon to resemble the color of wild salmon. The lawsuit claims that the stores’ failure to disclose the use of chemical additives to consumers was misleading. The lawsuit also claims possible concerns exist over farm raised salmon and consuming artificial coloring agents.

Specifically the lawsuit contains causes of action for unfair or deceptive trade practices under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act; false and misleading advertising; negligent misrepresentation and unfair and unlawful business acts and practices in violation of the state’s Unfair Competition Law, which includes the Sherman Law.

In the unanimous opinion the justices held that the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does not preempt deceptive marketing claims under California’s Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law because Congress explicitly intended to allow states to establish their own disclosure requirements and remedies for violations, and because the plaintiffs’ claims were based on state, rather than federal, law.

What is the true color of your salmon? Only your grocery store knows for sure, and until this lawsuit is resolved, they aren’t telling!