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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Rejects Mercury Warnings on Tuna Cans

(CN) - California cannot compel tuna companies to place warning labels about the effects of mercury on pregnant women, a state appeals court ruled.

The trial court ruled in favor of the Tri-Union Seafoods and other tuna companies for three reasons:

- The state's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act conflicts with federal law;

- The amount of methylmercury in canned tuna does not rise the threshold level that would require a warning label; and

- Almost all methylmercury in tuna is naturally occurring and does not even count toward the threshold limit.

The 1st Appellate District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's ruling for the third reason, that the mercury is naturally occurring.

"The trial court sided with the tuna companies' experts," Justice Reardon noted, "found them more credible, and afforded their testimony greater weight than it afforded that of the state's experts.

"When substantial evidence supports the trial court's decision," Reardon added, "we have no power to substitute our own deductions or preferred set of facts.

Speaking of preferences, Reardon noted that it would be better if this trial did not come down to a battle of expert witnesses.

"More than a century ago, our Supreme Court proposed that rather than relying on expert witnesses," Reardon wrote, "the trial courts should summon a disinterested body or board of experts."

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