Judge Rules Against State in Labeling Case
Tuna canners do not have to place labels on their products to warn consumers about mercury levels, a Superior Court judge ruled Thursday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The lawsuit -- filed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) under a provision of Proposition 65 -- claimed that methylmercury found in tuna can cause reproductive harm and cancer (Green, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/13). Proposition 65, which California residents approved in 1986, requires warning labels on products containing chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer or birth defects (California Healthline, 3/23).
The suit named as defendants the makers of StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea tuna.
The defendants argued that mercury occurs naturally in tuna and therefore does not fall under the scope of Proposition 65, which applies to contamination by human activity (Kay, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/13).
Judge Robert Dondero ruled that the level of mercury in tuna is below state limits and that it occurs naturally in canned tuna, which exempts it from state warnings. FDA consumption recommendations and federal law already provide adequate protection for consumers, Dondero wrote.
A spokesperson said Lockyer was "weighing [his] options" and could file an appeal (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/13). If the ruling is upheld by an appellate court, it could set a precedent for other products affected by Proposition 65, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The state also is deciding whether to pursue a similar case that seeks to require grocery stores to post signs about mercury in fresh and frozen fish (Cone, Los Angeles Times, 5/13).