Kroger agrees to note artificial coloring

CINCINNATI (AP) – A law firm says it will go ahead with a lawsuit even though Cincinnati-based Kroger and possibly other grocery chains have agreed to modify labels on farm-raised salmon to show that color has been enhanced.

The law firm, Smith & Lowney of Seattle, filed suit last week against Kroger, Albertson’s and Safeway, contending they had deceived consumers by not clearly stating that their farm-raised fish were artificially colored.

Wild salmon get their orange-reddish color by eating lobsters, crabs, shrimp and microscopic krill. Most farmed salmon get their color from chemicals added to their feed.

Without the chemicals, the color would be gray.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required “artificially colored” or “color added” labeling on products containing such color additives since 1995, although the chemicals have been deemed safe for consumption and approved for use by the same agency.

“The grocery stores are now doing what they should have done years ago, and it’s a wonderful victory for consumers,” Smith & Lowney attorney Paul Kampmeier said Wednesday.

Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, said Tuesday that it would add the words “color added” to the labels of farm-raised fish, including salmon and trout.

“Many suppliers add supplements to the food given to their farm-raised salmon and trout,” said Keith Neer, Kroger’s vice president of corporate food technology and regulatory compliance. “While the supplements do not affect the taste or nutritional value of the fish, we are modifying the product labels to share this information with our customers.”

Kampmeier said an attorney for Boise, Idaho-based Albertson’s told him that the company would change its policy as well. He said he had not heard from Safeway, based in Pleasanton, Calif.

Despite the changes, Kampmeier said his firm plans to follow through with its lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle. The firm’s suit seeks unspecified damages.

“Millions of consumers were damaged by the grocery stores’ practice of failing to label, and we intend to prosecute,” Kampmeier said.

The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform in British Columbia organized a boycott of farmed salmon last year, arguing that fish-farming practices were environmentally unsound, that farmed Atlantic salmon compete unfairly with wild fish and that the end product was not as tasty or healthy as free-swimming salmon.

Andrew Fisk, of the Department of Marine Resources, said salmon need certain compounds to be healthy. Wild salmon get those from food in the ocean, but the diet of farmed fish must be supplemented, he said.

“If they weren’t there … the fish wouldn’t be getting a portion of their diet that they need,” said Fisk. “It’s not as pernicious and underhanded as is being alleged. “There’s a dietary basis for it as well as having a functional effect of (turning the flesh pink).”



On the Net:

Smith & Lowney: www.smithandlowney.com/salmon/

Kroger: www.kroger.com

Salmon Farmers Assn: www.salmonfarmers.org

AP-ES-05-01-03 0612EDT



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