California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against five importers, distributors, and wholesalers of seafood that includes Canada-based Clearwater Seafoods for violations of Proposition 65 and California’s Unfair Competition Law.
Testing conducted by the California Department of Justice revealed levels of lead and cadmium in the companies' fresh and frozen packaged seafood products that trigger the requirement to provide a Proposition 65 warning, according to the complaint.
Becerra filed the complaint Wednesday in a California Superior Court against Pacific American Fish Company, Rhee Bros, Seaquest Seafood Corporation, Jayone Foods and Canada-based Clearwater Seafoods.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra alleges that the companies failed to protect consumers from – or warn them about – lead and cadmium present in their products and the risks these chemicals pose.
“When California's consumers, restaurants, and supermarkets purchase seafood, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether the products they’re buying contain toxic chemicals,” he said. “The seafood industry has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its products – and to warn consumers of any risks."
Proposition 65 precludes any person, in the course of doing business, from “knowingly and intentionally expos[ing] any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual.”
The seafood products at issue in the lawsuit – including packaged fresh and frozen whole or cuts of clam, cuttlefish, eel, goby fish, krill, mussel, octopus, oyster, periwinkle, sea squirt, sillago, silverfish, snail, and squid – are alleged to contain lead and/or cadmium, which are listed in California as reproductive toxicants and carcinogens, without a clear and reasonable warning to consumers.
"Clearwater sells, holds, and/or delivers seafood products, including, but not limited to, Arctic Surf Clams and White Cockle Clams, to consumers in California," according to the lawsuit.
Clearwater's Vice President of Sustainability and Public Affairs Christine Penney told IntraFish the company was surprised by the attorney general's complaint.
"We are confident that our products are safe to consume and comply with applicable laws," she said. "We plan to defend our company and our products, and look forward to working with the Attorney General to resolve this matter."