Press Releases

Groups Plan California Lawsuit Against Farmed Salmon Over PCB Levels

Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and Environmental Working Group (EWG) have filed legal
notice under California’s main toxics law, Proposition 65, of plans to sue many
manufacturers, distributors and retailers of farmed salmon over potentially
dangerous levels of cancer-causing PCBs (polychlorninated biphenyls) in the

As reported in today’s
San Francisco Chronicle, the groups are urging the salmon farming industry to
stop feeding practices that result in high concentrations of toxic PCBs in their

“The salmon farming
industry must stop needlessly exposing consumers to a cancer risk in every
bite,” said Michael Green, executive
director of the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health. “Some responsible
salmon farmers have already taken steps to reduce PCB levels in their feed
stocks. Now we’re challenging the entire industry to make farmed salmon safer
for everyone.”

Numerous studies,
including one published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed journal Science
and an EWG study of supermarket fish in several
U.S. cities released last summer,
have found high concentrations of PCBs in farmed salmon, yet federal regulators
have failed to take action.

“The salmon farming
industry can – and must – produce a heart-healthy food, without the PCB risks
that farmed salmon currently pose, said Jane Houlihan,
vice president for research at EWG in Washington, D.C. “The federal Food and
Drug Administration has shown no intention of taking action on this issue, so we
are pursuing our case under California’s toxics right-to-know

The 50 defendants named
in the filings include farmed salmon producers based in Canada and Europe, such
as Marine Harvest, Panfish, Stolt Sea Farm, Heritage and Mainstream, as well as large
U.S.-based retailers such as Safeway, Kroger, Albertson’s and

PCBs in farmed salmon
are high because fish farms typically raise salmon on feed high in fatty fish
and fish oils. Since PCBs in the environment accumulate in the fatty tissues of
animals, this diet results in fish with high concentrations of the carcinogenic
chemical. But other companies, such as Black Pearl Salmon and Clare Island Sea
Farm, regulate their feed and use other practices to minimize the PCB content in
their products.

Proposition 65 is
California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, which
ensures the public’s right-to-know about toxic chemicals in consumer products
and in the environment. The law provides that a company must either reformulate
its product or notify consumers if the product contains a hazardous level of
chemical. After the 60-day notice period a formal lawsuit may be filed. Public
interest groups like CEH and EWG use Prop. 65 to hold corporations accountable for their environmental and
health impacts.