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The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has filed suit against five of the state’s grocery chains -- Kroger (which operates Ralphs), Albertsons, Safeway (which operates Vons), Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s -- for failing to properly warn consumers about the risk of mercury in fish. The complaint covers actions dating back 14 years.

The lawsuit seeks to force the grocers to warn customers that fresh tuna (not canned), swordfish and shark contain the metallic element linked to cancer and birth defects; California Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide "clear and reasonable" warnings before exposing people to known carcinogens and reproductive toxins. The suit seeks financial penalties as well as a ruling barring the stores from selling the fish until they post the required warnings.

According to the paper, representatives from Albertsons, Kroger, Safeway and Whole Foods could not be reached for comment, while a Trader Joe's spokesman declined to comment.
KC's View:
We saw this story on the wires last night about 30 minutes after having consumed a tuna steak cooked in garlic, olive oil and a sprinkling of Emeril’s Essence. Now, we live in Connecticut, not California, and we have no idea what the rules are here.

Speaking as a consumer -- and we mean that not as a “shopper” but, in this case, an actual “consumer” -- this news made us just a bit queasy. This is a perfect illustration of how a little bit of information can have a big impact on consumer attitudes…and why retailers need to be pro-active in communicating this information to shoppers.