A California federal court has rejected a settlement agreement between Trader Joe’s and consumers who alleged that the store’s tuna cans contained too much slack fill. In re Trader Joe’s Tuna Litig., No. 16-1371 (C.D. Cal., entered April 1, 2019). The court rejected the agreement on choice-of-law grounds, finding that the plaintiff failed to “conduct the required analysis” needed to apply California law to a nationwide class of purchasers. The denial was issued without prejudice, and the court granted leave to refile within 60 days of the order.
Christopher Lischewski, president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in California and charged with one count of felony price-fixing for his alleged role in a scheme to fix the price of canned and packaged seafood sold in the United States. U.S. v. Lischewski, No. 18-0203 (N.D. Cal., filed May 16, 2018). The felony charge alleges that Lischewski and co-conspirators engaged in "an unreasonable restraint of interstate commerce" in violation of the Sherman Act; the maximum penalties include up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of $1 million. Lischewski's indictment follows guilty pleas on similar charges from Bumble Bee and its former senior vice president.
Ruling that the jury instructions were misleading, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has reversed a jury verdict finding for a seafood restaurant in a lawsuit involving allegations of foodborne illness. Rhodes v. Lazy Flamingo 2 Inc., No. 17-11338 (M.D. Fla., entered March 29, 2018). The plaintiffs alleged negligence per se after one ate Lazy Flamingo's oysters, which were contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus and caused an illness requiring five days of hospitalization. A Florida regulation requires foodservice establishments serving raw oysters to display a health-risk warning on menus or table placards; the jury was instructed that it could consider the text of the regulation as well as a Florida foodservice industry bulletin indicating the warning “may be on menus, table placards, or elsewhere in plain view of all customers.” The appeals court found no evidence that the bulletin offered a "reasonable interpretation” of the regulation, reversed the verdict…
After the Vietnamese government asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to discuss U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) restrictions on catfish imports, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer asking him to support repeal of the restrictions. “Since its implementation, the USDA Catfish Inspection Program has done nothing more than erect a damaging trade barrier against Asian catfish imports to protect a handful of domestic catfish farmers in Southern states," the senators wrote. “If the U.S. loses this latest WTO battle, it could negatively impact U.S. agriculture exports to Vietnam, including cotton, wheat, pork, soybeans, beef, poultry, eggs and fruit. Vietnam is one of our largest Asian trading partners and our 10th largest agricultural export market. Additionally, more than 525,000 American jobs directly rely on imported seafood.” McCain and Shaheen have been critics of the catfish restrictions since at least 2013,…
Alleging unfair trade restrictions, the Vietnamese government has asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to consult with the United States to discuss limitations on catfish imports. Vietnam alleges that a recent move to shift import inspections from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture subjects shipments of Vietnamese catfish (Siluriformes Pangasius) to unfairly stringent food safety rules. Vietnam argues that it has “objectively demonstrated” that its food safety standards “achieve the appropriate level” of safety demanded by the United States. If the requested consultations do not achieve a quick resolution, WTO may authorize Vietnam to ask for a formal adjudication.
Bumble Bee Foods LLC has agreed to settle a proposed class action alleging the company’s labels indicate its Medium Red Smoked Salmon Fillet in Oil product contains wild-caught smoked salmon despite actually containing farm-raised salmon with artificial smoke flavoring. Rodriguez v. Bumble Bee Foods LLC, No. 17-2447 (S.D. Cal., motion for settlement filed February 1, 2018). Under the terms of the agreement, Bumble Bee will begin repackaging the product in the second quarter of 2018, specify the salmon is “smoke-flavored,” omit claims that it is “premium” or “medium red” and omit images that suggest the fish was wild-caught. The motion for settlement seeks a hearing date for a motion that will specify the incentive award, the amount of attorney’s fees, and costs.
The Washington Department of Ecology has reportedly fined Cooke Aquaculture $332,000 for violations of state water quality laws related to a net pen failure that released approximately 250,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. Cooke initially blamed the failure on high tides coinciding with the August 2017 solar eclipse; state investigators determined that the pen collapsed because the company failed to clean and maintain the nets, reportedly finding that they were covered with more than 110 tons of mussels, clams and other marine organisms that increased tidal drag and overwhelmed the mooring systems. The state reports that about 57,000 of the escaped fish have been captured. Before the Puget Sound farm collapsed, Cooke reportedly applied to build a salmon farm in Washington’s Strait of Juan de Fuca. The state has terminated Cooke’s leases for both the Puget Sound location and a second location in Port Angeles and placed a moratorium on…
From the rise in food allergies to the changing economics of agriculture and animal husbandry, documentary series “Rotten” examines a range of factors that affect the food and beverage industry. Episodes include "Lawyers, Guns & Honey," which explores how foreign honey enters the U.S. market; "Big Bird," which documents the effects of JBS' purchase of Pilgrim's Pride on U.S. poultry farmers; and "Milk Money," which examines the benefits and risks linked to the sale of raw milk. The final episode, "Cod is Dead," details the effects of catch limits on commercial fisheries and reviews the case of Carlos Rafael, the "Codfather." Since the release of "Rotten," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reportedly sought to prevent Rafael and his businesses from reentering the fishing industry after he is released from prison.
The EU has voted to update and combine more than 30 existing fishing regulations, including the addition of a ban on electric pulse fishing and new regional measures tailored to meet the needs of industries in each sea area. The law would provide common rules governing fishing gear and methods, restrictions on fishing in certain areas or at certain times of the year, and the minimum size of fish that may be caught. The rules will also restrict catches of marine mammals, seabirds and reptiles and will include provisions to protect their habitats.
The Swiss government has reportedly banned the culinary practice of boiling live lobsters, mandating that the lobsters must be killed instantly by “mechanical destruction” or stunned before they are killed. Passed in response to concerns over studies that suggest crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs can feel pain, the law also outlaws transport of live crustaceans on ice, instead requiring that “aquatic species must always be kept in their natural environment." Experienced chefs may also use a traditional method of inserting a sharp knife into the lobster’s head to kill it quickly. The law takes effect March 1, 2018.