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US Method For Canned Tuna Weight 19 Years “Out Of Date” United States, March 13, 13

Already 19 years ago, in 1994, the Big Three tuna brands in the USA, Bumble Bee Seafoods, StarKist Seafoods and Chicken of the Sea International, through their US Tuna Foundation, a non-profit trade association consisting of all segments of the U.S. tuna industry, (which later went up into the NFI) requested that the filling of tuna cans was determined by the drained weight, and not by the pressed cake weight. The matter -at the time- was already considered old fashioned, unreliable and “out of date”.

This pressed tuna cake weight is the subject in the Class Action Suit that has now been filed by Patrick Hendrick a citizen of California, against StarKist Co., the owner of StarKist, the country’s leading canned tuna brand. Hendrick accuses StarKist of consistently under filling certain StarKist canned tuna products. He claims, among other demands, that StarKist will provide full restitution -to all purchasers of StarKist tuna- of all the money the company obtained from the sales of these products. He came to the conclusion about the tuna cans being underfilled after having their pressed cake weight being determined in a specialized laboratory.

The US tuna industry, in 1994, already tried to convince the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) through a Citizens Petition to amend portions of the canned tuna standard (2 1 CFR 16 1.190) . Again, in August 2000, this request was repeated but never any action was taken by the US authorities; leaving the US tuna brands and consumer with a method which has been the subject of discussion for over 2 decades.

As early as 1994, the methodology employed in the United States for determining fill weight percentages for canned tuna (pressed cake methodology) was considered “out of date” and “extremely difficult to monitor”.

At the time there already was awareness that the international community had moved to a drained weight standard for canned tuna. Europe, Japan and many other important markets use the drained weight method. The drained weight methodology is generally considered to be much more consumer-friendly.

Despite that, for many years, the Big Three expressed their willingness to support moving to a net weight combined with a drained weight declaration, the FDA always ignored this request, bringing the industry to the current situation. Currently US canned tuna only shows a net weight , which includes the brine or oil, but does not tell the consumer how much actual tuna meat is in the can.

The common use in the US canned tuna market of additives that enhance the moisture uptake of the tuna meat, such as hydro protein ( HP) or vegetable broth (VB), make it however disputable if indeed through draining a reliable drained weight of the tuna meat in the can could be determined. The pressed cake weight method presses the added moisture out of the meat. It is therefore questionable if applying the drained weight method without ending the use of additives would create the desired clarity. In the foreign markets where the drained weight method is used, the use of additives such as HP and VB is often absent.

US brands have always motivated their preference for drained weights as making it more consumer-friendly, ensuring that consumers would get value for money, and could easily determine this themselves at home, without the use of specialized equipment.

The Class Action Suit against StarKist could also create potential problems for the other two brands, Bumble Bee and Chicken of The Sea, which are currently both involved in a national pre-cautionary recall of over two million tuna cans due to potentially unreliable seams.