California sued five seafood companies on Tuesday, alleging that they failed to warn shoppers about lead and cadmium present in their products and the risks these chemicals pose.
The lawsuit was filed by state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who seeks civil penalties against the companies for violating Proposition 65, which requires businesses to warn consumers about harmful chemicals, and the state’s Unfair Competition Law.
“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,” Becerra said in a news release Tuesday. “The seafood industry has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its products – and to warn consumers of any risks.”
The defendants named in the suit include Pacific American Fish Company, Rhee Bros, Seaquest Seafood Corporation, Jayone Foods and Clearwater Seafoods.
Becerra alleged that the companies “knowingly and intentionally sold” seafood products — including packaged fresh and frozen clams, fish, mussels, octopus, oysters and squid, among others — without providing clear and reasonable warning to shoppers that they contained potential harmful levels of lead or cadmium.
Testing conducted by the state’s justice department found levels of lead and cadmium in the defendants’ seafood products that would require the companies to provide a Proposition 65 warning, according to the news release.
The state lists cadmium and lead as reproductive toxicants and carcinogen. Both lead and cadmium exposure can lead to kidney and brain damage, seizures, comas and death. Lead exposure can also cause children to experience stunted neurological development.
The current suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, also seeks to prevent other companies from selling seafood products containing lead or cadmium in California without providing a warning.
“I hope this lawsuit serves as a warning to any company that might skirt its responsibilities under Proposition 65,” Becerra said. “The California Department of Justice will hold you accountable.”