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Kroger to add 'color added' labels to all farmed salmon, trout

30th April 2003

Cincinnati-based retailer Kroger Co. announced that, beginning later this week, it will add the words 'color added' to the labels of all farm-raised fish from the Salmonid family, including salmon and trout.

The change comes less than a week after the company, along with Safeway and Albertsons, was named as a defendant in one of three class-action lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages for plaintiffs who believe they were tricked into paying too much for farmed salmon that did not indicate that it contained the colorants 'canthaxanthin' or 'astaxanthin'.

"Many suppliers add supplements to the food given to their farm-raised salmon and trout," said Keith Neer, Vice President of Corporate Food Technology and Regulatory Compliance, in a release explaining the company's decision to add the labels. "These additives, which are substantively identical to those naturally occurring in the diets of many wild salmon and trout, enhance the pigmentation of the farm-raised fish. 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."

The company said the labelling change would be effective for processed foods containing the additives as well.

Retailers are required by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) law to label salmon containing astaxanthin or canthaxanthin as 'color added' under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Plaintiff attorney Paul Kampmeier, with Smith and Lowney PLLC, was excited to hear of the pending labelling change. "This is great," he said, upon learning of Kroger's announcement. "Fantastic. This is a great victory; less than a week."

Smith and Lowney filed the suit in a King County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon. The attorneys also sought an injunction requiring retailers to add the labels.

Kampmeier said the announcement isn't surprising, given the specificity of the FDA laws, and the simplicity of compliance. "I don't think it's unexpected. It's so easy for the grocery stores to do."

He added, "This seems to be an indication - an admission - that what they've been doing is inappropriate."

Kampmeier said that while he's glad Kroger is adding the labels - and hopes Safeway and Albertsons will as well - the label changes are only one of the suit's aims. "We have a lot of consumers who were injured in the past who we need to protect," Kampmeier said. "This suit will go forward, but let's not let that undervalue the victory here."

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kroger operates 2,488 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 32 states.