Safeway Joins Kroger and Alberston's in Farmed Salmon Labeling Change

PLEASONTON, Calif. and BOISE, Idaho - Safeway and Albertsons confirmed that they will also label their farmed salmon and trout to indicate color has been added.

The two grocers joined Kroger in saying they would notify customers of the added color either on package labeling or in a placard in refrigerated cases.

The three acted within a week of being notified that they were the target of a class action suit.

Federal and Oregon state laws require that farm-grown salmon bear labels that show the use of artificial colorants.

A spokesman for pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche said the artificial colors, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, are basically the same compounds that wild salmon collect in their food while roaming the sea.

The additives "enhance the pigmentation" of farmed fish, said Keith Neer, Kroger's VP of corporate food technology and regulatory compliance. "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 consumers."

Kroger said farm-raised salmon and trout sold at Fred Meyer and its other stores would carry the words "color added" on labels starting this week.

Class-action lawsuits filed against the grocery chains last week accuse them of fooling customers into paying more for the farmed salmon by not telling them the fish contains added color as the law requires. Gray salmon without the artificial color would have fetched far lower prices, the filings contend. The lawsuits seek damages that attorneys suggest could reach into the tens of millions of dollars per chain.

The grocery stores would not say whether their move to label farmed salmon was related to the lawsuits.

Knoll Lowney, the Seattle attorney who filed the cases, said he has heard from many consumers who said they would not have bought salmon they knew was artificially colored. The decision by the chains to start labeling "not only admits they haven't been labeling, it also shows that labeling is controlled centrally; thus the previous decision not to label was made centrally too," he said.