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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California's attorney general on Friday filed suit against five grocery chains for failing to properly warn consumers about the risk of mercury in fish, Reuters reports.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer's lawsuit in state court seeks to force the grocers, who include Kroger Co., Albertsons Inc., Safeway Inc., Whole Foods Inc. and Trader Joe's, to warn customers that tuna, swordfish and shark sold in their markets contain the metallic-element linked to cancer and birth defects.
Lockyer alleges the markets have violated Proposition 65, a California ballot initiative approved in 1986 that requires businesses to provide "clear and reasonable" warnings before exposing people to known carcinogens and reproductive toxins.
"Consumers deserve to know when they are being exposed to chemicals that can cause birth defects, and reproductive harm," Lockyer said in a statement. "Public health agencies have advised pregnant women not to eat swordfish and shark because those fish contain relatively high levels of mercury."
Representatives from Albertson's, Kroger, Safeway and Whole Foods could not immediately be reached by Reuters. A spokeswoman for Trader Joe's declined to comment.
The lawsuit asks the San Francisco Superior Court to prohibit the stores from selling the fish until they post the required warning. The complaint does not cover canned tuna, only fresh tuna.
The state also seeks civil penalties for violations of Proposition 65 and the state's Unfair Competition Act, which together make the defendant liable for civil penalties of up to $2,500 per day for each violation. The complaint alleges the violations date back to 1988.