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U.S. Consumers And Manufacturers Knew Pressed Tuna Cake Weight Was Unreliable

All key players within the tuna trade have been fully aware of the problems with the current pressed cake method of tuna, this can be concluded from the comments submitted to the petition filed by the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) surrounding legal action being taken against StarKist tuna reveal that weighing. Both from consumer’s as manufacture’s side there is support for the request by NFI to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make a fundamental change in the way the weight of the tuna meat in the can or pouch is determined.

Recent reports that StarKist is involved in court proceedings after a consumer had his canned tuna cans tested and found that they were averagely a whole 17 percent under the federal minimum weight, prompted the NFI to issue a petition to the FDA to abolish the current U.S. tuna industry pressed cake method. The NFI finds the current method inaccurate and unreliable and wants to replace it with the more commonly used drained weight technique.

The FDA welcomed comments to the petition and received responses from the US National Consumers League (NCL) and the GMA Association of Food, Beverage and Consumer Products Companies, revealing their understanding that the current technique could be subject to producing underweight measurements.

“We have looked at the various proposals and we are inclined to agree that the pressed cake weight test for tuna is difficult to enforce, since this antiquated test uses specialized equipment that most states and local weights and measures agencies do not possess, is difficult to perform and is prone to human error,” commented Sally Greenberg, President for NCL.

Comments by GMA similarly outlined: “ This action is necessary so that GMA’s members, their customers and consumers can readily understand the amount of tuna contained in a can. GMA believes this action would support honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.”

The submitted comments and the original NFI petition all suggest informed knowledge within the US tuna industry, and possibly even with consumer organizations that the current pressed cake method is inaccurate and at times is providing underweight canned tuna to an ill-informed consumer.  It will be up to the court to determine if the StarKist products under assessment were intentionally and fraudulently sold to consumers with underweight, or if it was entirely due to the method being. It is unclear if the unreliable pressed cake weight method has equally led to consumers receiving high percentages of excess weight of tuna meat in their cans.

StarKist, one of the U.S. Big Three tuna brands could face fines up to millions of dollars with 8 counts against them including fraud. The NFI do not only represent StarKist, but also the other two leading tuna brands in the U.S., Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea. In case StarKist would lose the case, this could likely form a precedent for claims against the other 2 brands.