Temecula food banks could be among the beneficiaries of a $3.3 million settlement in a civil consumer protection action brought against three tuna companies by prosecutors in Riverside and two other counties.
Three companies -- Bumble Bee Foods, Tri-Union Seafoods—doing business as Chicken of the Sea International—and Starkist Co. -- are accused of underfilling their cans with protein.
As part of the settlement, the companies agreed to an injunction to follow federal packing standards for canned tuna products. The companies also agreed to pay civil penalties, costs and other relief.
The case was brought by district attorneys' offices in Riverside, San Diego and Marin counties based on a 2010 investigation by the California Department of Food and Agriculture into the amount of tuna in cans.
Tuna is often packed in water, oil and vegetable broth, and the amount of tuna relative to additional ingredients is controlled by a federal "standard of fill." The investigation found that the three tuna-packing companies failed to meet the required amount of tuna in cans packed with vegetable broth and added flavors.
Bumble Bee Foods and Chicken of the Sea are San Diego-based companies. Starkist is based in Pittsburgh. All three companies distribute canned tuna throughout California.
Because it would not be feasible to identify those consumers who purchased under-filled cans, part of the settlement orders the companies to provide $300,000 in canned tuna within 120 days to be distributed to food banks in California.
The judgment also requires the division of costs and penalties among San Diego, Marin and Riverside counties, with each office receiving $969,500, and the payment of $86,000 in investigate costs to the CDFA Division of Measurement Standards, which played a leading role in the investigation.