Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach announced on Aug.3, that a Riverside County judge has signed a final judgment ordering three major tuna retailers to pay $3.3 million in civil penalties and costs pertaining to the under-filling of tuna cans.
The Riverside County DA’s Office joined the San Diego and Marin County DA’s Offices in filing this civil action.
The civil settlement involves San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods; San Diego-based Tri-Union Seafoods DBA Chicken of the Sea International; and Pittsburg, PA-based Starkist Co.
An investigation started in mid-2010 by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards, found that the three companies were in violation of federal regulations which specify a “standard of identity” for canned tuna — depending on the size of the can.
Because canned tuna usually contains water or oil along with the tuna, these standards regulate how much tuna is required to be in the can. These three companies violated that regulation and, as a result, were shorting consumers because there was not enough tuna in the cans.
Due to the fact it would not be feasible to identify those consumers who purchased under filled cans of tuna, part of the settlement orders the companies to provide $300,000 in canned tuna within 120 days of the judgment to be distributed to food banks throughout California.
They must also provide proof to the prosecuting DA’s Offices of this canned food distribution within 180 days of the judgment.
Under the final judgment, the breakdown of the $3.3 million in civil penalties and costs include payments to the three DA’s Offices of $969,500 each, which includes the costs of the investigation.
Other payments are to also be made to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards; along with the Division of Weights and Measures in Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The judgment, in case RIC1211729, was signed Aug. 2, 2012, by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sharon J. Waters.