Los Angeles, CA – A complaint was filed in the Central District Court of California for violations of the Lanham Act 43(a), 15 U.S.C. 1125(a) and unfair competition under Section 17200 over labeling of sushi grade tuna. Plaintiff King Tuna advertises and offers sashimi grade processed seafood products for sale which it imports into the United States. During transport and storage of frozen tuna, carbon monoxide (“CO”) gas is used to treat the tuna to retain its initial red color. To generate CO, it is more favorable and expensive to employ filtered natural wood smoke than synthetic CO, and it is sometimes required by government regulation. “Synthetic CO, particularly at high concentrations, can sometimes be used to induce a more intense color ‘bloom’ in lower-grade tuna,” which can be used by unscrupulous vendors to pass off the lower-grade tuna as higher-grade tuna. Only tuna that is transported by “filtered wood smoke” technique of creating CO can bear such labeling. If “synthetic CO” or “chemical CO” is used to treat the tuna – produced by the chemical reaction of sulfuric acid and formic acid, such packaging cannot have the “filtered wood smoke” label.
King Tuna alleges that competing Defendants use “chemical CO” to treat their tuna during transport and not “filtered wood smoke.” Thus, plaintiff alleges that defendants’ filtered wood smoke “labeling is literally false as in actual practice and likely to mislead customers, as [defendants] misrepresent the nature, characteristics and qualities of its tuna products by presenting its raw tuna products as treated with filtered wood smoke and not chemical CO.” Plaintiff alleges that such mislabeling violates the Lanham Act because it constitutes misrepresentation in commercial advertising, which is likely to influence purchasing decisions of consumers. Also, as the complaint alleges, by mislabeling their products, defendants are engaging in unlawful business practices and unfair competition in violation of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200.